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Ten by Three: Left to right: Lisa Hadley, Misti Boettiger and Anne Francisco Worden in 'Maybe,' one of this year's 'Eight Tens @ Eight.'

Scene and Unseen

This year's Eight Tens @ Eight are linked by an unspoken theme

By Cindy Campo

Anyone who's read William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying may recall his technique (not popular at the time) of breaking the story into chapters told from different characters' points of view. Faulkner uses the main character as a central theme that holds the book together--but never gives us the first-person perspective that the title promises.

Similarly, what isn't explicitly revealed in this year's production of Eight Tens @ Eight turns out to be the theme that holds the show together. The eight 10-minute plays that make up this show were chosen from nearly 100 one-act plays as the "best of" this year's performances, and one of the great things about creating pieces this short is the craftsmanship necessary to reconcile wildly disparate themes such as destruction, regeneration, sexual identity and surrealism. But all eight plays do have one theme in common: love. The ancient and infamous binder of human hearts is at the core of these eight plays, sometimes evoked by halting naiveté, sometimes manifested through fear.

It begins with A Fish Through the Window, in which an act of violence will either tear people apart or make them family. In only 10 minutes, the two actors onstage get to the heart of the matter. You'll notice that the acting in Eight Tens is strong from the onset, and set changes are so fast that each new scene takes you by surprise.

Next is My Youth Blew Up (But I'm Still Here), an apt piece about the disposableness of a 7-Eleven, as well as of childhood. At the same time, it's a love story, realistically portrayed by Nathaniel Meek and Genffa Popatia Jonker.

R.E.M. and Nina Simone create a smooth segue ushering in Maybe, a two-woman dialogue about stereotypical gender roles.

Things begin to get serious with Advice on a Monday Morning (the morning of Sept. 10, 2001), a piece commemorating Father Mychal Judge, chaplain of the New York City Fire Department.

Statue, directed by Christopher Sugarman of Pisces Moon Productions, can't decide whether it's a dark comedy or a playful study in ferocity, but either way the visuals are captivating.

Weirdness enters the mix with Attic Room, but you have to wait until the end. Be prepared for hilarious Twilight Zone-like action, followed by Jump, a great character study with a twist.

The show wraps up with Unstill Life, a strange yet very funny play about truck stops, back-woods relationships, rats and Elvis. It is always good to leave the theater laughing.

The popularity of this collection of talented performances over the years proves that experimental theater is not dead. And it's easy to see that a lot of work went into making these one-acts the best they can be.

Eight Tens @ Eight. Through Feb. 15, Thu-Sun (call for times). $15 (Thu), $15/general, $12/students and seniors (Fri-Sun). Actors' Theater, 1001 Center St, Santa Cruz; 831.425.7529.

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From the January 21-28, 2004 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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