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Theater Review

10 Stories: A Humble Offering to the Manhattan Skyline

In this weird, wild city of ours, filled with fittingly strange and creative characters, at any given moment there are scores of ideas floating around: fashion shows with 300 pound models wearing paper bags; a symphony comprised of cell phones; performance art involving every human secretion possible; and so on. Most of these ideas remain as they are - ideas - and of those that actually take flight, generally they fall flat, being too conceptual or ill-conceived to produce anything of value, in essence mere masturbation. Sometimes, however, an idea is born, assembled and executed that actually works, that has substance and soul. And when this happens, it makes up for all the other shit out there, and completely validates my (and everyone else's) choosing to live here. "10 Stories: A Humble Offering to the Manhattan Skyline," presented by 'SCAPE (Skyline Cooperative Arts Performance Endeavor) is one such idea.

Originally conceived by Molly Townsend, the play brought together a wide variety of writers, actors, directors and producers, many of whom had little to no experience in the theater world. The only thing linking them was talent, ambition and a reverence for the beautiful buildings of New York city. Additionally, while I don't know this for certain, I imagine many of them are "outsiders," as, naturally, the Manhattan skyline is best viewed from another borough. And being on the outside provides a perspective that is not only unique, but one which all of us can relate to. After all, who can afford to live in Manhattan anymore? And of those who can, how many of them were actually born and raised there? All of us, in some sense, are from somewhere else, on the outside looking in, and the artists involved in this project successfully bring this perspective to light.

Performed in a waterfront park in DUMBO, the setting was perfect for the various stories, which all took place on a rooftop. The impressive skyline in the background, coupled with the open surroundings, provided a unique and effective atmosphere. Unfortunately, these same conditions were also the play's greatest weakness. On the night I attended it was raining, and outdoor theater only works when the actors properly project. Many of those in the production failed to do so, and in at least half of the stories I missed major parts of the dialogue.

Of these stories, most fell into the average to above-average category, with a few falling below and a few rising above. A particular favorite was Bruce Mason's "Letting Go," about a grandfather dosing his grandson with LSD on his birthday. Directed by Esther Bell and starring David Dixon and Fredrick Gunsch, it came off as comical and yet emotionally resonant, with a slight "Harold and Maude" feel (which was accentuated by the use of the Cat Stevens' song: "If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out"). Other standouts included Jardine Libaire's "Woodcut of Blue Swans" (directed by Joshua Dickens and starrng Jenny Penny Curry, Heather Peroni and Ryan Shogren), about two chatty, catty women at a wedding, and Jonathan Ames' autobiographical rant about his experiences as a transvestite.

"10 Stories" is slated to return next year, with a whole host of new talent, and I for one look forward to seeing it. Good ideas in this city are few and far between, and when they occasionally surface, we need to get behind them. Otherwise, prepare for another season of runway fatties and shit-caked art stars.

--Russ Josephs

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[email protected] | July 2003 | Issue 40
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