Scriptwriters/Houston's annual Ten by Ten Showcase is one of the city's most cherished theatrical events. In its twenty-second year, the production features ten short plays from local playwrights.
If there is a unifying theme in this year's selected plays, it's the complexity of human nature. From the desire to walk away from one's life and the urge to create order out of chaos, to the forbidden love of 1970s homosexuality and the moral consequences of reality television, each play frustrates the linear plane of black-and-white reality. The intriguing scenarios that the characters find themselves in onstage are only half the equation. The local cast is a joy to watch, and nearly every performance feels remarkably lived in.
Despite the challenging nature of this collective body of work, there's also plenty to laugh about. Lauren Tunnel's Decision 59 BC is a standout for its political timeliness. In dueling public service announcements, Julius Caesar and Porcius Cato rail against each other's positions on foreign policy, job creation, class warfare, taxes and, most amusingly, the threat of lead in Rome's water supply. Sound familiar? That's because Tunnel's satire wittily asserts that politics never change, no matter what election year -- or century -- it is.
Fernando Dovalina's A Bag of Ice is a riotous look at what happens when a looming hurricane wipes out the city's ice supply and a woman is desperate for her scotch on the rocks. She ends up in a shady part of town only to find that there are a few challenges that stand between her and her prized bag of ice. It's a hilarious take on misguided desperation and a startling look at the moral fabric of people in dire circumstances. Jada August as the woman on a mission is a gem, and Steve Kobrin as the knowing store clerk proves to be a generous scene stealer who knows exactly how to play off the varying energies of his cast mates. Both are standouts in a showcase filled with memorable performances.
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As an added bonus, the show also features eight monologues. Each is revelatory and equally touching as the ten plays they support. The monologues prove to be another testament to the power of short works.
This collection of ten short plays hints at the depth of Houston writing talent; there's not a weak link in the bunch. The actors are in fine form, and the staging is direct and effective. Prepare to laugh and cry and, ultimately, to be moved.
Scriptwriters/Houston's Ten by Ten Showcase runs through August 5 at Country Playhouse, 12802 Queensbury Lane. For information, call 713-467-4497 or visit www.scriptwriters-houston.org.