Slapstick and studied humor combine with poignant and tender slices of life at the 11th Annual Northwest Festival of 10 Minute Plays, which kicked off its two-week run on Friday, March 1, at Oregon Contemporary Theatre.
The show stealer, Onion Ode, is a spirited tribute to the Walla Walla sweet onion, courtesy of playwright Matthew Weaver, director Kari Boldon Welch and the Walla Walla sweet onion herself (dressed for the part, too), actress Hannah Oristano.
Oristano steps onto the stage dressed as the sweet yellow onion complete with green stems on her head. She’s a middle schooler giving a book report on the Walla Walla sweet onion.
Breathlessly, Oristano launches into the history of the sweet onion and Walla Walla’s prideful place as the land of the sweet onion. She dives into food preparation for the sweet onion (sautéed in butter and plopped on top of hamburgers is my favorite) and mocks other vegetables (including, correctly, beets).
Her report is a witty, educational tip of the cap to Walla Walla, population 31,731, tucked away in southeast Washington.
Weaver, the playwright whose work this year makes a second consecutive appearance at OCT’s NW10, comes by his knowledge of the Walla Walla sweet onion honestly.
A native of Spokane, Weaver is a reporter for Capital Press, an agriculture newspaper serving the Pacific Northwest. I would bet he’s stepped inside the annual Sweet Onion Festival in Walla Walla more than once.
Humor also shines with the night’s opening 10-minute play, Torrid Taxes by Laurie Spector. Think film noir as the character Chance (Scott Machado), a tax preparer near the annual deadline, mourns the passing of another stressful yet productive year in his calling. His night is interrupted by the gorgeous Desiree (Vanessa Greenway), who spins an outlandish tale of how she became the sole provider of her 12 nieces and nephews. It’s love at first sight.
A tenderer slice of life comes from Rachael Carnes and her play Inertia. It’s the story of a romantic breakup, and Carnes, a regular writer for Eugene Weekly, nails perfectly the dialogue and mannerisms of the Eugene-based characters Billie (Kelly Oristano) and Minky (Sharon Sless).
Two serious 10-minute plays at the Northwest Festival that I would love to see expanded, if possible, are Paint My Lips Pretty by Jeremy Urann and Dhebba by Sravya Tadepalli. Both feature topics ripe for America at this time, and both are well written and well acted.
The 11th Annual Northwest Festival of 10 Minute Plays continues March 8-10 at Oregon Contemporary Theatre. Times and ticket prices can be found at 541-465-1506 or at octheatre.org.