By Melissa Rose Bernardo
October 24, 2006 at 09:54 PM EDT

The Gran Centenario was flowing hours before The 24 Hour Plays even began. The tequila was a big sponsor of the now-annual evening of short plays, a benefit for Working Playground, an amazing not-for-profit advocate for arts in public schools. In fact, with those bottomless pitchers of ginger margaritas, it’s a wonder they were able to produce six “never seen before and possibly never seen again” works in one day. (Seriously, one day. 9:30 p.m.: Writers, directors, and actors meet. 6:30 a.m.: After a night holed up at the W in Times Square, voilà! Each writer has crafted a 10-minute play. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.: Rehearse. 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.: Tech; dinner delivered by Le Cirque. 8:30 p.m.: Perform. 11 p.m.: Retire to the W’s Whiskey Bar and enjoy more Gran Centenario.)

And now to the $24 million question: How was Jennifer Aniston? First off, her hair looked fantastic. I had a really good view of the ’do — thank you, 24 Hour people, for my row C seat! — and I am now obsessed with her Chris McMillan highlights. (Can my hairdresser possibly reproduce them? How many different colors are in there, anyway?) Aniston seemed a little obsessed with her tresses too: There was lots of twirling and tousling and flipping going on. But her acting? Just as good as the hair. Playing an intimacy-obsessed single gal, she more than held her own with her costars (Lynn Whitfield, David Cross, and scene-stealer Rosie Perez), displayed crack comic timing, and — sorry, Julia — appeared completely at ease on a Broadway stage. (Of course, she did train at NYC’s High School for Performing Arts, so let’s give the gal some credit.)

addCredit(“Vardalos, Aniston and Paquin: Evan Agostini/Getty Images”)

And she wasn’t the only star there — though you’d never have guessedfrom the curtain call, when nearly every lens was aimed at Aniston(poor Nia Vardalos looked so lost). There was also an Oscar winner(Anna Paquin), a Tony winner (Liev Schreiber, who hit the after-partywith Naomi Watts), a former ER star (Julianna Margulies, whocracked up laughing when she forgot a line…despite the fact that shehad a clipboard — presumably holding the lines — in her hand), a Culkin(Kieran, an amazing stage actor currently starring in subUrbia), and a Showgirl (Elizabeth Berkley — now Berkley-Lauren, FYI — who played a Mexican lesbian bombshell). Also among the cast: The Wire‘s Amy Ryan, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind star Sam Rockwell, Matthew Lillard (stripped to his underwear), and Sleeper Cell‘sMichael Ealy (a standout as half of a gay interracial couple). As forthe writers, newcomers like Adam Rapp, Julia Cho, and Adam Bock (whopenned Aniston’s entry, “Three Girls and Bob”) shared billing with vetsDavid Ives, Tina Howe, and — one of my longtime favorite playwrights —Terrence McNally (whose play Deuce will be bringing Angela Lansbury back to Broadwaythis season). And as the evening wore on, the musical interludes fromThey Might Be Giants got longer and longer and more and more bizarre.Perhaps they were dipping into the tequila as well.