Future Ten packs much into one-acts

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Just around the corner and down a block from the Theatre Festival in Black & White, the Future Ten franchise -- also in its ninth year -- gives the Cultural District a total of 18 one-act plays this weekend.

With its full title, "Future Ten 9: Armageddon, 10 Minutes 'til Doomsday," and subtitle, "Pittsburgh's Apocalyptic 10-Minute Play Festival," this year's Future Ten is heavier on titles than substance. But that's the goal of producers Brad Stephenson and Fred Betzner: clever, brief comedies (10 minutes is the target, though some miss) you might call laughter on wry.

I have to admit to suffering One-Act Play Overdose, such that a few of Future Ten's eight are fuzzy in both my memory and notes. But two are the kind of clever pleasures you can't wait to tell people about, as my wife will attest.

Damian Synadinos' "Effect and Cause," directed by Joanna Lowe, plays backward, but does so with such pell-mell brio that you're constantly challenged to keep up and delighted with yourself when you do. Mr. Betzner and Joe Lyons enact a discussion (I couldn't say about what), which makes sporadic sense but only makes real sense when you remind yourself that each speech precedes the one it follows. Thank goodness for the waiter, walking in backward to remind us to recalibrate. Great fun.

Even more clever is Christopher Kent's "Under the Bed," an encounter between 20-something Andy (Robert Raedner) and the whiny monster under his bed (Matt Henderson, an eccentric actor, perfectly cast). Andy's girlfriend is moving in, and it's time to put away childish things. The defanged monster recapitulates their long history, to no avail. It's a fine comedy with an emotional tang.

I also liked Philip Kaplan's "Last Words," directed by Todd Betker, in which Mr. Stephenson and Bridget Carey deliver a eulogy for their father that turns into a no-holds-barred battle for the family Picasso.

There are other plays and performances to savor, among which I'd include Everett Lowe's caustic oak tree and Mr. Betzner's hapless Sarcasmo. Others will have other favorites. The humor is generally sophomoric -- in the good sense.

"Future Ten" plays 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Future Tenant, 819 Penn Ave., Cultural District; $10 at futuretenant.org or the door.



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