An Evening of Ten-Minute Plays

Stockton Civic Theater Play Review

Some readers prefer the brevity and clarity of short stories to novels. The same is true of theatergoers with an interest in brief stage works and the curiosity to see how much a playwright, director and talented actors can achieve in a matter of minutes. 
The opportunity for local fans to do so has arrived with the Stockton Civic Theatre’s current production of “An Evening of Ten-Minute Plays,” now in its final week at SCT’s Pam Kitto Black Box Theatre. The small, stageless theater’s interactive setting offers its audience a sense of closeness and participation in nine brief plays, each of which has a different author, cast and director. 
Gia Smith. Photo: Jenny Key
The Civic Theatre promotes the plays as having “something for everyone…and will leave you laughing, crying and everything in between.” Laughter and tears were enough of a lure for me, though the question in my mind was whether the economy of ten-minute plays would grant  theatregoers anything more than a quick laugh or shallow drama.
The show opened with a farce about breath control (“Hold for Three”) in which actor Carlos Roman was challenged to achieve the impossible by a pair of performance-insistent ladies (Gia Smith and Sophia Olivares) with stop-watches  Suspense mounted as we wondered whether the suffering hero of the piece could achieve the seemingly impossible without expiring from lack of oxygen. 
More impressive was “The Wedding Story,” in which a kindly, fiction-minded storyteller (Kaz Ustach) began reading aloud his utterly romantic version of a bride and groom’s marital experience. His presentation was promptly challenged by the couple themselves (engagingly portrayed by Brian Wick and Angela Nicole) who insisted the storyteller stick to the facts of a relationship that was anything but harmonious. Could they induce the romanticist narrator to become a realist?
Kaz Ustach, Brian Wick and Angela Nicole. Photo: Jenny Key
Crime entered the bedroom scene of “Cinnamon Rainbow” when a hooded, menacing burglar (Kacey Kelley, Jr,) aroused a sleeping woman  (Nikki Pendley) in the hope of frightening her into surrendering some fast cash. Fear for the victim lessens as we sense the intruder is dealing  with no ordinary woman. The question then becomes how far the woman will press her advantages and what justice she will require.
A gravesite is hardly the place one would expect to find women from two different worlds coming to terms with one another and offering a perspective of their lives, but such is the case when the widow of a rascally actor encounters one of her late husband’s fans. The ensuing revelations by the women (Dahlia Vocque and Sherry Dumos) teach us everything we need to know about a duo united by the unworthy man they had in common. And to that extent, “The Grave, The Fan, The Wife” succeeds as a play of uncommon insight.
The fifth and final play before intermission is the wacky comedy of “Wash and Dry,” in which the odd proprietor (Charles Cardwell) of George’s Watch (yes, that’s the way he spells it) and Dry has a surprise in store for a customer (Leanita Taylor) who assumed she was merely picking up clothes she’d left for cleaning. The audience is as surprised as the woman to discover that George is a very different kind of launderer and a stickler for detail. The collision of these two is given credibility by the acting talents of the incensed Taylor and the imperious Cardwell. 
Lin Taylor and Ron Smith. Photo: Jenny Key
A highlight of the evening follows intermission with the airport comedy of “Baggage Unattended.” Opening with a tongue-in-cheek bit of Sinatra singing “Come Fly with Me,” a piece of luggage going nowhere arouses the curiosity, suspicion and apprehension of a woman (Lin Taylor) whose husband (Ron Smith) does his best to calm her increasing agitation. Has the baggage merely been forgotten or misplaced? Or is it serving a more sinister purpose? Taylor’s acting makes us share the nervous woman’s baggage phobia and acquire suspicions of our own, unsure as we are if she is merely venting or else sensitive to a threat that her husband chooses to dismiss.
As if his turn as the overwrought thief in “Cinnamon Rainbow” wasn’t strenuous enough, actor Kacey Kelley Jr. returns for another heavy duty performance as the victim of a zombie apocalypse in “Bitten.” The spoof plays on the familiar cliches of the horror genre, with a staggering Kelley trying to shake off the curse of the undead as his companions are forced to cope with a threat from inside their chosen sanctuary as his companions (Shanea Gideon and Charles Cardwell) are forced to cope with a threat from inside their chosen sanctuary.
If tangled identities are more to your taste than zombie shenanigans, follow the truth-hunting Sheila (Nikki Pendley) to the office whose know-it-all executive Marie (Liz Kastner) is her best hope for making sense of her tangled life. In “Family Names,” the exasperated Sheila and knowledgeable Marie play the name game in a way that makes us wonder whether Sheila’s desperate investigation can hope to find the answer she is seeking.
The evening of theatrical short-shorts concludes with a spirited spoof ot the English mystery tale. With no apology to Agatha Christie, “Bon Voyage” takes us inside the aristocratic world of angry Mr. Smythe (Joseph M. Toon) and his murder-minded Mrs. (Dahlia Vocque), a crafty servant (Sherry Dumos), jolly Mr. Chubb (Ron Smith)  and–look out!– a black-clad hitwoman (Angela Nicole) with an American accent and a fondness for sharp blades (a plot twist Christie never imagined). Armchair detectives may wish to put their skills to the test here, though the surprise ending to this caper could fool Sherlock himself.
While these ten-minute shorties are of varying appeal, they run the gamut from lightweight comedy to introspective drama, allowing theatregoers to see a spectrum of storytelling and appreciate the efforts of performers who bring unexpected dimension to their roles and at times a quality that lingers in one’s mind beyond ten minutes.
“An Evening of 10-Minute Plays”
Stockton Civic Theatre, 2312 Rosemarie Lane, Stockton
Showtimes: Friday and Saturday, 7:30 p.m.  Sunday, 2:30 p.m.
Tickets: $23 general admission,
Information: (209) 473-2424

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One Comment

  • Sorry I missed this one. Format sounds unique, interesting and I love a black box theatre setting. Looking forward to the next season of shows at SCT!

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