Sunday, January 22, 2012

At-TEN-tion Span, Cleveland Public Theatre

(Darius Stubbs and Faye Hargate in "Alibi," conceived and directed by Chris Seibert, one of the twelve ten-minute plays in At-TEN-tion Span.

When towering Abraham Lincoln was asked how long a man’s legs should be, he responded “Long enough to reach the ground.” Good one, Abe.

Fortunately, no one ever asked the first stretch Lincoln how long a play should be, because he’d probably have had another smartass answer.

But if you were to ask the folks at Cleveland Public Theatre that question now, they might suggest ten minutes as the ideal length.

That’s because their most recent version of At-TEN-tion Span is now on the boards. This collection of a dozen ten-minute plays, or movements, or poetry is a grab bag of styles and tones that defies easy categorization.

Clearly, there is plenty of both inspiration and pretension in these conceived pieces, but it’s safe to say you’ve never seen anything like this before. And there are enough high points to recommend a look-see.

There are some notable works among the ten-minute theatrical tidbits. In one, “To Fasten Your Seatbelts,” conceived and directed by Renee Schilling, a new flight attendant is being tested by airline staffers, with hilarious results. And Jeremy Paul stands out in an understated comedy gem as a smolderingly sexy gay male flight attendant.

While that piece is quite traditional and linear in form, there are others that occupy the other end of the spectrum, such as “Crash Project,” conceived and directed by Pandora Robertson, and a couple different (very different) offerings by Chris Seibert.

Then there are four works conceived and directed by CPT artistic director Raymond Bobgan. Among them are two dance/movement interludes, closing the first act and opening the second act, that are enthrallingly hypnotic with hardly any words ever being said.

Note that the audience is required to move around a bit inside CPT’s main theater space, sometimes with chair in hand, so that new audience and stage configurations can be created. This also contributes to the visually varied experience that Span provides.

Other conceiver/directors include the aforementioned Paul, Simone Barros, Douglas H. Snyder and Darius Stubbs.

Of course, there are dull spots and a couple pieces that seem interminable even at ten minutes. But you’ll walk out from At-TEN-tion Span with your senses tweaked and your perspectives altered. And that ain’t bad at all.

At-TEN-tion Span

Through February 4 at Cleveland Public Theatre, 6415 Detroit Avenue, 216-631-2727.

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