FORT WORTH “Job” is one of those words that has many uses; a job isn’t always about filling out a time sheet in exchange for a paycheck. The loose variations on that theme come into play with the 19th annual summer showcase for SceneShop, an evening of short plays and monologues with the theme of “J.O.B.”
The showcase, featuring six works, opened Saturday at Arts Fifth Avenue, and has two more performances this weekend.
In Kyle Irion’s The Evaluation, SceneShop co-founder Steven Alan McGaw plays a boss giving a nine-month evaluation to employee Michael Carver-Simmons. The dialogue aims for a Beckett-like nonsensical exchange, although much less cryptic, so that you don’t know which one is wackier. The performers are amusing, but the work is rather aimless.
Mulligan’s, by Dale Shelton and Allison Willoughby, takes place at a failing chain restaurant (the crack about the most Irish thing on the menu being a potato appetizer could be a jab at Bennigan’s or Arlington’s J. Gilligan’s). The authors and Joshua Eguia play multiple characters, with Eguia as the new waiter in training. There’s some funny behind-the-scenes restaurant material, including stuff no customer wants to know about, but it is also unfocused and rambling.
Things pick up for the rest of the show, starting with Nicholas Irion’s Byway, in which Steven Cashion plays a sensitive cabinetmaker/craftsman and A.J. Blake a directionless employee. Cashion delivers the evening’s best acting as a quiet, thoughtful father-figure type hoping his “son” will find his way. Touching work.
The funniest piece of writing is Chris E. Gepp’s monologue Mine Likes It When She Don’t See Me, with Travis J. Fant playing an unemployed man who takes a nontraditional route to making bank. Yeah, it’s not legal. Fant is terrific in this twisty story that sees him through a number of outlandish situations, and possibly romance.
McGaw’s Home. School. is affecting. Michael Wittman plays a teenager who is home-schooled but has to deal with a no-good father. From the opening material about bringing home a puppy to the final action, Wittman takes us on this journey of growing up too fast — but feeling rewarded for doing it with bravery and class.
A Long, Damned Night, by McGaw and Natalie Gaupp, is reminiscent of Conor McPherson’s play The Weir, as Eugene Chandler, Joshua Eguia and Gaupp (who stepped in for another actor in the final stages of rehearsal) play characters at a Lubbock bar who end up telling ghost stories on a dark and stormy night.
Debbie Dacus joins late as a mysterious character who puts everyone closer to the edge of their seats — including the audience. They’re all terrific, and Gaupp is especially funny as a no-nonsense bartender. The writing is vibrant but could use a trim.
Despite some flaws, J.O.B. is an entertaining night at the theater — and, as always, it offers something you don’t find elsewhere in these parts: seasoned and emerging writers on an even playing field in an unpretentious setting. No grand production needed, just some well-crafted words and actors who seem to be having a ball.