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Acting Out

[whitespace] San Francisco Fever
'Fever' Frenzy: Billie Harris (left) and Jean Wiesz shine in Anne Adams' 'San Francisco Fever.'

The Ten-Minute Play Festival charms with a vastly original stack of one-act playsBy Joanne Eglash

THE ASSIGNMENT: create a 10-minute play. Seems like child's play, right? Well, did I mention that the task includes painting captivating personalities in mesmerizing situations within that tiny time limit? The Central Coast's most talented writers rose to the challenge--and proved that when the play's the thing, it's skill, not length, that makes an audience stand up and cheer.

"Eight 10s at 8" at the Actors' Theatre showcases more than just the talent of the local playwrights: Both the acting and direction excel in this fourth annual Ten-Minute Play Festival.

The festival's ultimate crowd-pleaser (deservedly so) is Barbies, written by Linnet C. Harlan and directed by Clifford Henderson and assistant Dixie Cox. Harlan toys with our society's mores and manners in a play that contains intriguing undertones of the dark side of our imagination. The three Barbies actresses (Mara Luthy, Terese Marie and Heather Hamil Young) brilliantly portray life-size dolls, complete with stilted movements and garish attire.

Also superbly performed is Anne Adams' cleverly crafted San Francisco Fever, directed by Leonard Maestas. Actresses Billie Harris and Jean Weisz deliver polished portraits of two aging friends who exchange memories and bombshells. Harris' elegant, wry enunciation and mannerisms echo Shirley MacLaine, enhancing Adams' skillful dialogue.

Weisz slipped off her actress' beret and tapped on a director's hat in another of the festival's highlights, As It Happened ..., written by David Sals. This wickedly witty playlet is a Dorothy Parker-esque tale of how a young man's version of a failed romance differs dramatically and hilariously from the young lady's. Call it the 10-minute rendition of Men Are From Mars ... Women Are From Venus.

There is one potential pratfall in producing a series of short plays: segueing from the end of one play to the beginning of the next skit. If well done, it requires a quick conclusion to the first play, a blink-of-an-eyelash scenery shift and a tidy transition to the next play.

The Actors' Theatre crew manages it nicely. Each play ends with the traditional "bow-bow-clap-clap" conclusion. Then there's a short blackout for the changing of the scenery, during which the audience is entertained with a musical selection that sets the mood for the following skit. A light Barbie ballad, for example, preceded that charming sketch, while stagehands swiftly and smoothly transformed the intimate setting into a Barbie-beautiful boutique.

It's a smooth kaleidoscope of action, for which credit must be given to artistic director Wilma Marcus Chandler, production and stage manager Lena Mason and set designer/technical director Mark Hopkins.

Eight Tens at @8 plays Thu-Sat and Sun at Actors' Theatre, 1001 Center St., SC, through Feb. 7. See Stage listings for times. Tickets cost $12/$10. For more info, call 425-PLAY.

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From the January 27-February 3, 1999 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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