Ezekiel Andrew (center) sings “Shine” with backup help from JJ Parkey, Angela Miller, Dionysia Williams, Viktor Nilsson and Melissa Hall (from left) in Fugitive Songs (photo by Jerri Shafer)

What do you do when you’re 20-something and stuck in a dead-end job or relationship? According to Fugitive Songs, you hit the road.

  Lyricist Nathan Tysen says the show consists of songs he and composer Chris Miller wrote for other projects that fell through. After realizing that all of them were about people on the run from one thing or another, they decided to combine them into a “song cycle” that’s united by a general theme rather than characters or plot.

  It sounds like a haphazard way to construct a show, which may lead you to believe you shouldn’t expect too much. And after hearing the first handful of angsty but unmemorable songs, you may think you were right.

  With song No. 6, though, things start to turn around. “Get me the hell out of Washington Heights,” sings the sonorous-voiced Ezekiel Andrew, playing the part of a man who’s spent too much time in one neighborhood. From that point on, the songs are as well-honed as the singers who deliver them.

  Several of the tunes are tinged with melancholy and loneliness, as you might expect in a show about people on the move.

  Viktor Nilsson plays a traveling photographer who’s haunted by regrets in the sweetly sad “Lullaby.” In “Passing Tracy,” Andrew plays an equally haunted hitchhiker who keeps imagining he sees his former girlfriend driving past and rejecting him yet again. “Who was that girl?” he asks, as if realizing too late that he should have made more of an effort to know her.

  Not all of the songs are tear-stained. Humor also makes an occasional appearance.

  In the midst of “Spring Cleaning,” Melissa Hall decides she’s ready to throw out her “parasitic bloodsucker” of a boyfriend along with all the dirt and clutter. In “Lost,” Angela Miller dons a ragged version of the dress she wore earlier to play a woman who can’t find her way out of a forest.

  Funniest of all is “Wilson,” featuring JJ Parkey as a man watching in amazement as his “crackhead” traveling companion tries to rob a store and is met with gunfire.

  Some songs take place before the characters have made their escape from the circumstances that entrap them. One of them is “Subway Song,” in which Parkey rues his dead-end job as a sandwich maker in Franklin, W.V. And in “Poor Little Patty,” Dionysia Williams and Hall can only dream of fleeing their humdrum lives by wishing they were 1970s heiress-turned-bank robber Patty Hearst.

  Co-directors Tysen and Carrie Gilchrist rely on simple staging and choreography to complement the songs and keep the show moving. Particularly innovative is the stylized “pedaling” Parkey, Andrew and Nilsson employ while portraying cross-country bicyclists in “Kansas Highway Sky.”

  An onstage band working under music director Nils-Petter Ankarblom handles the accompaniment with aplomb. Michael S. Brewer’s simple set is dominated by two video screens whose still images help to set the scene for each song.

  By making good use of discarded tunes that otherwise would have gone to waste, Fugitive Songs proves that the musical arts can be both entertaining and environmentally friendly.

  Short North Stage will present Fugitive Songs through Nov. 30 at the Garden Theater, 1187 N. High St. Show times are 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday (no show Nov. 27), 3 p.m. Sunday. Running time: 80 minutes. Tickets are $25 unreserved, $30 reserved. 614-725-4042 or shortnorthstage.org.

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