August 4, 2008

SceneShop’s Fare This Year is the Aptly Named ‘In the Dark’

By Mark Lowry, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Texas

Aug. 4--FORT WORTH -- Every summer, a little showcase called SceneShop presents semistaged performances of short dramatic works. This year's installment -- the 12th -- is In the Dark, and that title is pretty apt.

The three scenes are pretty grim. And only Don Nigro's excellent but short Lurker had laughs to break the mood. If it weren't for a few out-of-the-blue surprises Saturday (a marriage proposal, an ill-parked red Volvo) and the free-wheeling vibe of the venue, Arts Fifth Avenue, it would have been no fun in the dark.

Lurker, which comes after intermission, features two appealing actors, Adam Whittington as Marston and Rachel Baker as Lil, each speaking to the audience in a story that comes together in a humorously gruesome way.

Marston is a blue-collar guy who becomes obsessed with watching the sexy Lil work in her garden in her bathing suit. She's obsessed with patterns, and thanks to her latest stalker and her all-seeing cat, she gets to keep her life perfectly ordered. He's not so lucky, though. It's funny and winningly acted.

The show opens with SceneShop co-founder Steven Alan McGaw's Morrison Road, based on a killing that one of the piece's actors (Eben Atwater, who plays a police sergeant) worked on when he was a real cop. It involves Detectives McGaw and Melodee Halbach, who get an unsolicited tip from a suspect (Becca Nordeen) about a possible killer (good turn by Charles Baker) who is being held in custody. A green lawyer (Tyler Cochran) complicates issues.

Filled with language that would make Steven Bochco blush, it's the kind of crime drama that might make good TV from multiple camera angles, but it's not exciting on stage.

Austin writer Robert Elrod's Broken World, about a tormented teen (Clinton Elledge) who goes psycho on his mother (Debbie Dacus), is mildly more entertaining and has a bizarre twist. But it's not enough to pull the evening out of the depths.

SceneShop 2008: In the Dark 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Arts Fifth Avenue, 1628 Fifth Ave., Fort Worth



Be advised: Strong language

Runtime: Two hours, 30 minutes with one intermission and the music interludes.

Best reason to go: Arts Fifth Avenue's cool atmosphere, where neighborhood folks show up for drinks, some live music and a little bit of theater.


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