The demands of the ten-minute play are formidable: like a short-short story or lyric poem, every detail has to snap tightly into place. The temptation to lapse either into gimmickry or cliché can be hard to resist. Brown Couch Theatre Company’s fourth annual festival of ten-minute plays, “The Mating Game,” demonstrates above all the severe constraints of the form. The program notes report that the company received 348 entries for this year’s festival; if these are the ten best, one shudders to think about what the bottom hundred or so looked like. With a couple of exceptions, the playwrights structure their plays effectively; there’s not a lot of wasted exposition. But the taint of the writing exercise haunts almost all of these efforts. Coming at the subject of modern romance from a variety of angles, these plays manage nonetheless to keep the stage free of any hint of novel insight. A couple of the plays do stand out. Colene Byrd’s quite funny “A Bunny Tale” suggests a disturbing avenue for jealousy, powered by Torey Adkins’s grotesque turn as Floppy Bunny. And John C. Davenport’s “Ariel” hinges on a clever plot twist. For the most part, though, the evening settles into a dimly differentiated set of awkward and lackluster pairings, eliciting from its performers their most studied and unconvincing responses. But then what do you expect from a night of speed dating? (John Beer)
This production is now closed.