New season of shorts at the Fishtank

Photo // Nick Sawin

Lindsay Adams

“This & That” jump-started the Fall Shorts series at the Fishtank Performance Studio. Bryan Moses’ work gave a nuanced, realistic view of a ridiculous situation.

Following the tradition of the Summer Shorts, the Fall Shorts are script-in-hand readings of plays by local playwrights. This fall, Nick Sawin, a graduate of the UMKC MFA program, is premiering a sampling of his works.

The shorts are structured with actors reading the characters. The playwright reads the scene directions, then answers questions and shares his inspirations in a discussion afterward.

This past Sunday saw the first reading of Tyson Schroeder’s “Bastard.” On Sept. 29, Brianna Nicole Taylor will be reading her work “Closed Spaces,” followed by Nicholas Sawin’s “Queer Thoughts: The Monologues” on Oct. 6. The series will be capped off by a reading of Phillip Russell Newman’s “Our So-Called Loved Ones” on Oct. 13.

“This and That”

Bryan Moses’ play “This and That” is composed of two short plays, named appropriately enough “This” and “That.”

“This” tells the story of two strangers who meet under rather unusual circumstances. The man correctly guesses the woman’s name is Aimee, introduces himself and then proposes marriage to the woman. “That” details their second meeting, exactly one year later.

Unsurprisingly, a reading can quickly become stale if not in the right actor’s hands. The actors, Andy Perkins and Hailey Jones, did a credible job of infusing the words on the page with emotion and action.

Moses does a fantastic job creating a very textured and detailed background story to the characters. The slow moments when the characters are somewhat timidly getting to know each other were extremely well written. Their common ground in the first scene later became part of an inside joke in the second show.

The dialogue was very naturalistic, with pauses, misdirection and stutters to which the actors played very well.

Overall the play needed some structural work. It felt uneven at times and started to circle back to places it had already been without bringing new content into the discussion. The first play, “This,” came off a wee bit trite at times, but the storyline was one that is very difficult to make believable and not menacing. The story had trouble getting to the climax quickly enough, falling into a bit of a rut. The second play, “That,” had a much better pace and the ended resonated with the audience.

Inspiration

One of the first questions after the reading was from Heidi Van, actress and curator of the Fishtank, who asked Moses why he picked “this” piece to read, causing much laughter at the inadvertent pun on the piece’s name.

The fact that the show made it to the Fall Shorts was just short of miraculous. Moses explained that his computer crashed after writing it and had sent one physical copy to a friend to read.

Bryan Moses admitted he is a big fan of the Cubs and baseball in general, which is something discussed by the characters in the show.

“Baseball, to me, has the most poetry of any sport,” Moses said.

Moses said he sees sports as a way for people to connect, even if they have no history together.

The audience offered feedback and asked questions about the plot and the ending.

“It’s a surprise when I write it,” Moses said. “I just kind of write what I see in my head.”

He described his style of free writing as “puking.”

The bittersweet ending of the show is perhaps a reflection of the playwright.

”I’m such a sucker for heartbreak, I guess,” Moses said.

Overall, the reading and discussion was quite interesting and entertaining. There is a fantastic casual atmosphere at the shorts, which leads to a very candid and fun discussion afterward and an enjoyable evening.