The Fishtank presents “An Adult Evening of Shel Silverstein” at the Fringe

Lindsay Adams

With a series of short plays about two for one hookers and finding every possible synonym for breasts, “An Adult Evening of Shel Silverstein” definitely not a family event. Unbeknownst to most, Silverstein wrote many mature short plays, which comprise the evening’s entertainment. The evening moves from show to show neatly, mostly thanks to the clever device of Pete Bakely, who also acted in one of the short plays, carrying on signs with the title of each work and humorously announcing them.

The play range from ridiculous and goofy to very dark humor. The childlike fun the author has as he plays around with words is evident in many of the works, creating some cohesion in the show. However, the evening had some bullseyes as well as a few short plays that just plain missed the mark.

“The Lifeboat is Sinking” is the most entertaining show of the night, thanks to the plays deft blend of dark comedy and ridiculous, yet realistic situational humor. A wife forces her husband to play the traumatic game of deciding who to throw off the sinking ship first: his wife, his daughter or his mother. The wife describes the imaginary situation in disturbing detail, relishing her vicarious revenge on her mother-in-law. Much of the play’s strength should be given to Diana Watts’ slightly off kilter enthusiasm and chemistry with scene partner Jake Walker.

Jake Walker performs a difficult range of roles quite well, from a beleaguered husband in the aforementioned short play forced to make an impossible choice, to a crotchety, horny old man in “Buy One Get One Free.”

Watts is one of the four Fishtank acting interns in the show, who all dispatch their roles quite well. Tim Wilkinson keeps the pace moving with rapid line delivery and good comedic timing, but occasionally rushes over himself in his lines, which are well written enough to intrigue audience members. Marianne McKensie and Jenny Ward both do quite well in their roles, although they are given substantially less meaty characters to work with than some of the others.

“Thinking Up a New Name For the Act” was, without a doubt, the weakest show of the night. This was made all too evident by its bizarre positioning at the end of the evening, when the audience usually expects a grand finish. It is hard to pinpoint problems with the work since the poor quality could be attributed to either a directorial mistake or a writing issue. However, considering the overall awkwardness of the entire sketch, the weak writing is most likely to be blamed. The actors seem to have a great time enacting it, but didn’t seem to check to see if anyone else understood the humor. It plays as a giant inside joke that is disjointed and clumsy.

“Going Once” is a short and sweet piece that does a great job opening the show, involving the viewers with fourth wall breaking dialogue that alternately attacks the audience and conspiratorially involves them in the action. “One Tennis Shoe” and “Wash and Dry” are both clever enough concepts that they keep the audience laughing even as they slightly overstay their welcome.

The evening offered its audience a chance to experience a new side of a famous author. While the writing of the short plays were uneven, the quality of production was top notch, thanks to lighting design by Douglas Macur and sound design and directing by Heidi Van.

“An Adult Evening of Shel Silverstein” will take place Thursday July 25 at 9 p.m., Friday July 26 at 10:30 pm and Saturday July 27 at 7:30 p.m.. Tickets can be purchased for $10. For more information, visit kcfringe.org

Image Credit: Nick Sawin