Wednesday, June 10, 2015

10 out of 12

Tech rehearsals occur in the days immediately preceding actual performances. They allow the set, lighting, and sound people, along with the stage management team, to practice, polish, and sometimes even perfect their end of things. Tech rehearsals are notoriously stop-and-go. For example, a scene might get a line or two in and then be stopped for 20 minutes as lights are dealt with. Two lines later, the scene might be stopped again to fix a sound cue. Tech rehearsals tend toward the tedious, but they can also be full of humor and comradery.

Sue Jean Kim
Photo: Julieta Cervantes
Anne Washburn's new play, 10 out of 12, directed by Les Waters at the Soho Rep, immerses the audience in the not-very-smooth tech rehearsals of a not-very-good play. We watch scenes from the show and see and hear the designers and director make artistic decisions and deal with obstacles. The characters are located all around the theatre, as they would be in a real tech. Through individual audience headsets, we also hear the stage manager and backstage techies do their jobs and chat about this and that. We witness personal interactions both in the theatre and on the headsets. It's a nice setup.

The characters and situations of 10 out of 12 will be familiar to anyone who has ever done theatre or seen any of the many movies and plays about doing theatre. A couple of actors are sleeping together; there is jealousy of the movie star in their midst; the director changes his mind frequently; an actor makes a pain of himself by trying to hold everyone to his idea of art.

There is much that is lovely here. Washburn establishes intriguing characters and situations with great efficiency. Although we often hear snippets rather than entire conversations, in most cases we quickly know and like the people involved (most of them, anyway). In one perfect line, she lets us know the level of theatre being represented: "I talked with Chip earlier and he’s bringing in fans and we’re going to plug them in as soon as we’re done with the curling iron." She also gives a nice sense of how current laws have tamed theatre a bit, with exit signs making true dark impossible, smoking being completely forbidden, and unions requiring that actors actually get to rest occasionally.

For all that is good about 10 out of 12 (the title refers to the number of hours actors can work during a tech rehearsal), it has a bit of an in-joke feeling to it, theatre written and performed for theatre people. In addition, it can be difficult to know who's speaking, what with people all around you and the headsets and one character's recorded thoughts. Worst of all, for clumps of time the show all-too-successfully replicates the sheer boredom of a tech rehearsal.

The direction, design, and acting are all what you would want them to be. The cast includes Quincy Tyler Bernstine, Jeff Biehl, Gibson Frazier, Rebecca Hart, Nina Hellman, Sue Jean Kim, Bruce McKenzie, Garrett Neergaard, Bray Poor, David Ross, Thomas Jay Ryan, Conrad Schott, Wendy Rich Stetson, and Leigh Wade. Set design is by David Zinn, lighting design is by Justin Townsend, sound design is by Bray Poor, and costume design is by Ásta Bennie Hostetter.

(press ticket; fifth row)

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