Eric Hadley & Nancy Hopps in Brendan Healy's The Way It Really, Truly, Almost Was

Eric Hadley & Nancy Hopps in Brendan Healy’s The Way It Really, Truly, Almost Was

Ten-minute play festivals are like spring weather in Eugene: If you don’t like what’s happening, just wait a couple minutes.

The Eighth Annual Northwest Festival of Ten-Minute Plays, which opened tonight and runs through next weekend at Oregon Contemporary Theatre, offers a pretty good range of theatrical possibilities in a very short space of time. All eight plays were selected from about 90 submissions. For the first time, submissions were accepted this year from British Columbia — hence the abbreviated title for the show, NW10, Eh? (Sadly, none of the scripts from our neighbors to the North was chosen for production. Better luck next year.)

The evening started out with a clever comedy, A Love Song for Oboe and Concertina, by Jonathan Graham and directed by Geno Franco. This musical love story with a twist was the perfect opener for the three somewhat more-serious shows on the first half of the bill: Roger, by Nicholas J. Maurer (directed by Tom Wilson); Within, by Russell Dyball, and directed by Tara Wibrew; and Paper is Dope, by Ricky Zipp and directed by Laura Robinson.

The strongest work came after intermission, with Tonal Manipulation, a smart drawing room comedy by Deborah Chava Singer, directed by Eliza Roaring Springs; SNAFU, a love story in camo by Gretchen C. O’Halloran, directed by Eliza Chace; and the best two shows of the evening, The Way It Really, Truly, Almost Was, by Brendan Healy and directed by Christopher McVay, and What It Feels Like to Feel Hungry, by Paul Calandrino, directed by Maggie Hadley.

The Way It Really, Truly, Almost Was examines a marriage — and life itself — through the  device (also, oddly, used in another play on tonight’s bill) of communicating with a person in a coma. In this case, Nancy Hopps plays the wife in a coma, and Eric Hadley plays her husband, who reminisces about their life together in a series of increasingly hilarious exaggerations, until reality finally and heart-breakingly intrudes.

And in What It Feels Like to Feel Hungry, Michael Teague plays a man who has asked his spouse (Hailey Henderson) to chain him to the living room couch so he can no longer eat, apparently wanting to achieve empathy with the starving millions. Within hours of beginning this ordeal, he is pleading for her to call it off, and a fair amount of dramedy ensues.

New plays like this are the first draft of tomorrow’s theater. Go see what the future is all about.