When Claude meets Janet, they sit in a café and work their way through a dating checklist. Flirting, giggling and snuggling close together, they tell each other one personal thing after another – as proscribed.
Last Friday night at the Durango Arts Center, William Orem’s play, “Bondservant,” featuring Claude and Janet, came to life via veteran actors Ben Mattson and Mandy Gardner. One of five plays in the seventh annual 10-Minute Play Festival, “Bondservant” brimmed with believable dating details right up to an unexpected ending.
“Bondservant” won the $500 grand prize. A panel of judges awarded the Massachusetts playwright the top slot. It will receive a full production next fall in the final part of the 10-minute play process.
As luck would have it, the well-crafted work also won the People’s Choice Award – by five votes. At the end of the evening, Theresa A. Carson, DAC artistic director and theater manager, sorted out the conundrum. She quickly announced that Bruce Guelden’s “Where’s This Train Going?” came in a tight second and would be designated the popular choice by proximity.
These works will be performed in fully staged productions Oct. 13, 14 and 15 at DAC. It will be tantalizing to see what actors will participate and what new directors might uncover.
Friday’s staged readings came about after winnowing entries from 121 submissions. With only one rehearsal each, all were directed by Carson. It’s a minimal endeavor and surprising given what actors can do carrying scripts. Auditions for October’s more formal presentation will be held in late August, Carson said, so things will change. That’s part of the process – discovery and transformation.
The other three plays presented last Friday included: Erin Glenn-Hash’s “The Truth about Spicy Cajun Curry,” Peter Stavros’ “Good Things” and Scott Lummer’s “Crisis of Character.” Each had significant problems.
“Curry” is a complex analysis of a marriage via a split-screen technique. A couple is observed in present time and flashbacks by secondary characters playing the Ego and Id. The conceit is interesting, but the exposition turned out to be cumbersome.
“Good Things” was more conventional in every way. In a single scene, a son visits his father in the hospital. The playwright packed the dialogue with clichés and references to extraneous characters as if they were important family memories that had to be mentioned but not developed. Like “Curry,” the play seemed overthought and overwritten.
“Crisis of Character” is a meta-drama that begins conventionally with a student visiting her professor about a grade. The scene divides and morphs into a commentary on the play itself. It’s a literary device that reflects back upon given action. The actors step out of character and self-reflexively comment on the play. We’re seeing more and more of this playwriting style, conveniently termed meta-drama. Accepting the conceit, which took the audience by surprise, the play still seemed overly complex, wordy and confusing for a 10-minute format.
Kudos to all 16 actors and super-director Carson who created this wonderful celebration of live theater. Plan ahead and save mid-October for the fully staged performances.
Judith Reynolds is an arts journalist and member of the American Theater Critics Association.