Short is sweet at PlayGround 

Ten-minute plays require not just concision but also humor — slapstick, parody, irony, whatever — and an adventurous experimentalism.

At least that’s the conclusion to be drawn from seeing this year’s batch of seven winners (six tiny plays and one musical) from the new-play incubator PlayGround’s ongoing development process.

Among these seven onstage at Thick House, chosen from 36 contenders, the cleverest worked the best, the more earnest and realistic — not so much.

The evening starts with a knockout: Tim Bauer’s “A Futurist Supersaga in Six Acts,” in which Stacy Ross and Liam Vincent whiz through, yes, six short and slightly futuristic scenes, from a woman confessing to a priest to a book club discourse on “The Great Gatsby” and more. Directed with flawless timing by Jon Tracy, it’s a hilarious riff on an eclectic mix of topics.

Successful too, in a completely different way, is Erin Bregman’s eerie fairytale “7 Nightmares,” in which a father and daughter (Brian Herndon and Elena Wright) confess their interlocking recurrent violent dreams to a psychiatrist (Jomar Tagatac). M. Graham Smith directs.

In Evelyn Jean Pine’s wry and captivating mini-musical, “Back to Earth” directed by Barbara Oliver, the hidden feelings of a 1950s-style sitcom family (Ross, Herndon and Wright) are revealed through slightly discordant song.

Tom Swift’s satire “The New Season” sets two men on a road trip during which one confesses the unthinkable to the other, to amusing effect. Under Lee Sankowich’s brisk direction, Tagatac is particularly funny as a hyperactive motor-mouth, perfectly balanced by Vincent as his husband.

Another satire, local actor/writer Alex Moggridge’s “The Audition,” is a theater-insider joke: An ape (Herndon) and a bear (Vincent) are waiting to audition for, respectively, the ape in Eugene O’Neill’s “The Hairy Ape” and the bear in “A Winter’s Tale” (as in the famous “Exit pursued by a bear”), both resentful about constantly being typecast. As directed by Tracy Ward, it’s pretty darn funny when they plot to eliminate the (human) competition.

Less rewarding are two realistic family plays: Malachy Walsh’s “The Safety of Pools,” about an angst-ridden new mother, is undermined by some banal dialogue and slack pacing, and Diane Sampson’s “Undone,” in which two parents discuss their psychopathic daughter, is potentially intriguing but too dense for its brevity, and frustratingly inconclusive.

The Best of PlayGround 14

Presented by PlayGround
Where: Thick House, 1695 18th St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays; closes May 30
Tickets: $20 to $40
Contact: (415) 992-6677,

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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