"Look at what we put ourselves through to do theatre!"
Director BJ Gailey's words will resonate empathetically to those with theatre backgrounds, and will sympathetically educate those who have only experienced the beauty of a show from the audience.
Parkland College Theatre's production of Anne Washburn's behind the scenes depiction of a play, 10 Out of 12 is a dizzying and fascinating trip into the experiences of the cast and crew during the stressful, tedious, detail-oriented, repetitive, conflict-inciting, and sometimes dangerous or existential crisis-invoking technical rehearsal phase.
We've gone behind the scenes of a play here at Parkland before (Michael Frayn's Noises Off in 2015), but this is different. Gailey distinguishes it this way: "Noises Off is a play about a play, but this is more of a documentary as [Washburn] spent so much time observing actual tech rehearsals and then incorporated verbatim what she had seen into 10 Out of 12."
The documentary vibe is constant as the audience is not even quite sure when the show is opening as there is just a subtle appearance of crew happenings on the stage which builds into the presence of more of the production team and ultimately the actors. At times, there are several things happening at once and Gailey has staged it so that the "audience will feel right in the middle of it all" - and there is not always an obvious place to direct your attention, so the audience gets to make choices or just try to absorb the scene panoramically. Similar to watching a three-ring circus, but with the human animals being much more unpredictable.
The cast of 10 Out of 12 is an exciting mix of community theatre legends (Mathew Green, Lindsey Markel, Ed Pierce, Zoe Dunn and Ranae Wilson) alongside a versatile and exciting mix of young student actors - several of which we have seen before in recent Parkland productions. Pierce plays the director (something he actually is quite brilliant at) and when he arrives on stage, it literally feels like it is his show and we forget completely that BJ Gailey even exists. Pierce conveys both the command and the weariness of someone who has put the last couple months of their life into something and wants it to be perfect, but at some level also just wants to get this over with. Dunn is the Stage Manager and through her stage calls and directions we are given the most insight into not just the invaluable nature of a SM to a performance (shout out to the phenomenal SM of this show - Yen Vi Green), but also just how much extraordinary detail and nuance goes into making a show come to life. Dunn has a seriousness and professionalism and orchestrates the chaos and complications perfectly.
Actors will be very familiar with all of the crew, in their roles of lighting, sound, costuming, and other support roles, and what is so fascinating is that they are all done so well that you will continually have to remind yourself that these people are actually ACTING and not working. Particular standouts are Mariah Smith (Lights) who has a deadpan seriousness as she goes about her detailed work with effortless knowledge and poise, and the underutilized Spencer Hazen as Assistant Director (who just like in She Kills Monsters, is brilliant and hilarious in the brief opportunities he gets). One excellent scene that evoked Pulp Fiction (Travolta and Jackson) vibes was when Hazen and Techie Solomon Robinson analyze the power possessed by a single chip and the willpower it takes to withstand eating one despite the a human's tremendous size and strength advantage - and then move on to talk about physical fitness and how tempting it is to "whip out" your six pack if you've got one.
In line with the documentary realism of the show, when they suddenly "Take 15", the audience tentatively realizes that means it is intermission for them too. When things resume, there is a shift in focus from the crew to the actors and this gives particular chances for Mathew Green and Lindsey Markel to really shine. Lindsey gets to play a powerful force of a woman actor playing a domineering force of a man, which she pulls off absolutely in voice and command. Markel has two lengthy "mono-rants" - where she goes on passionate rampages about things most actors think at some point or another - how the actor knows more than the playwrite how a particular scene should be conveyed - claiming she wasn't wanting to change it so much as "I want to exploit the rich vein of inquiry which the playwright initiated". Green is brilliant throughout the show. One part worth seeing the show twice for; he is an actor going through the scene and we hear his lines, but then later he runs through the same scene again while other actors are the focus and Green is pantomiming the entire scene again. Wilson has some of the most physically energetic and fun scenes, which she pulls off expertly.
Due to weather, 10 Out of 12 canceled opening night, but you can contact Parkland Theatre if you pre-ordered tickets. Hopefully, the rest of the run will go smoothly, but unexpected bumps and working through them is part of what this show is about.