The SceneShop performing arts collective has come a long way since it started workshopping comedy at the 7th Street Cafe in Fort Worth a decade and a half ago. This troupe's growth is impressively evident in "Trio," three playlets presented at the Out of the Loop Fringe Festival.
The first two showcase SceneShop's dramatic/thematic maturity. The third demonstrates that the years have not dulled the group's comic edge.
In the opening segment, lived in. . ., Kyle R. Trentham reads what starts off like a sweet romantic memoir. But the author, SceneShop co-founder Steven Alan McGaw, has some surprises for us. This little gem is nothing less than a haunted house tale, but with chillingly real-seeming twists. Trentham rushes a few of his lines, but the overall portrayal is subtly efffective.
In Freak, by Nicholas Irion, Steven Cashion paints a stark portrait of a 20-year convict struggling to get his life together in anticipation of returning to the world “out there.” The actor shifts nimbly from conversational style to angry rants (directed at us, the playgoers). But he never alienates the audience. We're rooting for this guy. So is his daughter, played with deftly understated emotion by Ellanie Patman.
The hilarious final stanza was written by McGaw and features him with Peggy Bott Kirby, the Hip Pocket Theatre diva. It's titled Trafficking With the Devil or She Drove Me to It. It depicts a combative car trip from Dallas to the Hill Country. Phil (McGaw) has agreed to drive his wife's great Aunt Nonnie (Bott Kirby) for an antique shopping expedition. The two have hated each other for years, as evidenced by this early exchange:
SHE: "What your wife needs is a good divorce lawyer!"
HE: "And what you need is a shot of butane and a well-placed match!"
Nonnie clearly is kin to Bott Kirby's Meemaw character, locally legendary in the Hip Pocket comedies of playwright Johnny Simons. McGaw's Phil is not shy about insulting the old girl, but she is quick to retort. She refers to him as “oil field trash,” adding: “You're as sorry as a blind hunting dog.”
McGaw (who directed all three segments) has a particularly good scene in which he talks with his wife by phone. She's unseen and unheard, but his droll and anguished reactions tell it all.
It's the next best thing to a trip to Greater Tuna.
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