The humor in David Ives's All in the Timing is esoteric, academic, visceral, and childlike -- sometimes successively, sometimes concurrently. Director Joe Tantalo staged the play's seven scenes with the entire cast on stage all the time, so those who didn't have parts in a sketch watched, giving it the aura of a party where guests are called upon to provide entertainment for each other. In the less-interesting scenes there might be as much to be gleaned from watching the watchers as the participants, but when it all came together, attention was riveted on those strutting their stuff.
And it all came together in the sixth scene of the evening, a wicked spoof of the affectations of modern music, theater, and performing. It's called "Philip Glass Buys a Loaf of Bread," and it was performed with such absolute conviction that even without any information of Mr. Glass's minimalism and repetitious motifs it was uproarious. But with even the slightest knowledge of what was being skewered, it was breathtaking. As performed by Ryan Harrington, Flannery Foster, Liz Caldwell, and Cyrus Roxas, it was a many-faceted gem.
The five pieces before "Philip Glass" weren't at that level, but there was enough in them to keep the audience smiling, thinking, chuckling, and sometimes even laughing out loud. "Sure Thing" is a conversation between a newly met man and woman where every false start or awkward comment is punctuated by the ring of a bell that signals a new start and obviates embarrassment. It's like a fantasy where the hand of God was benevolent rather than mal, but as a scene it suffers from a soft, unsure finish.
"Words, Words, Words" is a takeoff on the canard that monkeys at typewriters will eventually produce Hamlet, but these monkeys are a lot like disgruntled copywriters. They're aware of their apedom, and as they struggle to figure out what a Hamlet is the playwright puts enough near- and almost-Shakespearean quotes in their dialogue to keep it amusing. It's a clever setup, but as it has nowhere to go, again there's a soft landing. In the next, "The Philadelphia" turns out to be a state of mind similar to existing in a black hole in the fabric of reality, where nothing happens as expected, and you can't get there from here. It may be marginally better than being in a "Los Angeles," but you most definitely don't want to be in a "Cleveland." No argument there.
"Foreplay: Or the Art of the Fugue" is something of a clinker, using three couples to illustrate the change in how sexual politics has been played. It is set on a miniature golf course, but the writing isn't as crisp as some of the previous pieces, and again it stops rather than finishes. "Degas C'est Moi" may have seemed more sharply written because of Ryan Harrington's sly and engaging performance as a man who one morning decides he'll be Edgar Degas. It doesn't make much difference to those he encounters, but he is aware of New York as a "gorgeous, polychromatic city," and he grabs the opportunity at the library to "look myself up!" It was a terrific lead-in to "Philip Glass's" deadpan, stylized, silly surrealism.
"English Made Simple" finishes the play with a man and woman at a party, deconstructing their words for underlying meaning as their conversation is taking place. It's clever if not transcendent, and it benefited from Sophia Holman's funny ultra-intensity.
Special mention to Andrew Recinos's original music and sound design, which imposed a kind of order on the absurdity of the situations. Miriam Sohn's costumes were part of the "let's-put-on-a-show" atmosphere, but Jason Ranione's lighting was sometimes over-frenetic. It isn't easy to keep the upper hand to Mr. Ives's linguistic gyrations, but who knew buying a loaf of bread could be this exquisite?
Also with Deanna Henson, Kenneth King, David MacNiven, JT Patton, and John Porto.
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Copyright 2002 David Mackler