Of all the backstage realities audiences should never see, technical rehearsals are probably number one: that moment, close to opening night, when lights, sound, set, and costumes first converge. “Techs” can be laborious and painful, and their dramas take place mostly offstage. Which might be why Anne Washburn sets her imaginative new play entirely during one.
In 10 Out of 12 — the title alludes to the number of hours the actors’ union permits each member to work — spectators receive listening devices so we can hear the backstage chatter while observing the onstage action throughout a long rehearsal day. We glimpse the fictional play being rehearsed but mostly watch the labor that brings the stage-world into being. Sound and light cues are constructed, furniture rearranged, entrances and exits plotted out.
Meanwhile, daily existence unfolds. One actor asks his castmate out; another ponders a TV career he never had. A techie cuts himself. A frustrated performer plumbs his role for dubious depths. Tedium occasionally turns poetic, as when an aria of light cues suddenly erupts.
10 Out of 12 is subtler than, but just as deep as, other Washburn works (like the post-apocalyptic Mr. Burns). Tech is where theatrical fantasy meets plywood and paint, where artistic visions find form or, frequently, compromise with the limitations of money, materials, and time. Not a bad analogy, Washburn suggests, for life.
10 Out of 12
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