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    All in the Timing
    Photo by Photo by Cari Stahler

    Breaking out in Ives

    David Ives' "All in the Timing" is a brilliant, snappy collection of short comedies with a love of wordplay and absurdity, well handled by the Theatre in the Schools company.


    The key to "All in the Timing" is indeed all in the timing — David Ives's six short plays are built on snappy patter, quick-fire comic brilliance, inspired gibberish and paradoxical plot quirks, and it takes a quick-witted cast to pull it off and an equally nimble audience to keep up. The current production by Theatre in the Schools (being performed not in the schools but at HERE) is an outstanding job, with the acting and direction mostly on target and the results mostly hilarious.

    Company: Theatre in the Schools.
    Written by: David Ives.
    Directed by: Justin McElwee.
    Cast: Beth Dover, Molly Franklin, Cameron Francis, Jack Lamb, Ed Bacarri.

    Related links: Official site
    145 Sixth Ave.
    Nov. 22 - Dec. 1, 2002

    Each of Ives's short plays goes out on a different comedic limb, starting with "Sure Thing," a comedy of errors about dating disasters that may remind you of "Groundhog Day" (which the play predates by a few years). Betty (Beth Dover) and Bill (Jack Lamb) have just met accidentally in a cafe, and they misstep their way through the getting-to-know-you process interrupted constantly by a bell that resets the action every time there's an embarrassing goof.

    "What's the book?" asks Bill. "'The Sound and the Fury,'" says Betty. "Oh, Hemingway!" enthuses Bill as the bell chimes in.

    "Oh, Faulkner," he corrects himself. "Have you read it?" she asks. "Yeah, I read it in college," he says. "Where was college?" she asks. "I went to Oral Roberts University," he says as he's dinged again. It takes a lot of hilarious do-overs, many of which may remind you of the Mr. and Ms. Wrongs in your own experience, before these two lovebirds get together.

    The funniest piece is "The Philadelphia," about a man named Mark (Cameron Francis) who's woken up with a nagging headache in a parallel New York in which the taxis go the wrong direction, the newsstands refuse to sell the local tabloids, and, especially unlucky for him at this moment, the drugstores have no aspirin.

    "Don't panic," says his friend Al (Lamb). "You're in a Philadelphia."

    A Philadelphia, as it turns out, is a metaphysical state in which, when you ask for any everyday thing you'll be met with a blank stare from somebody who never heard of it before. But being in a Philadelphia isn't so bad — because you can use reverse psychology to beat the system.

    As Mark learns, you can get service in a diner with a simple, "Hey waitress, fuck you!" and if you want a Bud all you have to do is ask for orange juice and egg nog and anything but beer until the waitress corners you into settling for what you really wanted in the first place. This masterpiece of misdirection had my companion, who had in fact come up from Philadelphia, literally falling out of her chair laughing.

    This production holds up well to the masterful original, which had an award-winning run off-Broadway at Primary Stages in 1994. With few exceptions, the cast executes this demanding material with excellent timing and comedic instincts. Beth Dover and Molly Franklin are spectacularly simian in a segment about monkeys condemned to sit eternally at typewriters until one of them produces "Hamlet." Cameron Francis and Jack Lamb have moments when they undersell their lines, which can be a problem when the script requires such close listening on the audience's part, but they each come through at key moments.

    Lamb pulls off a perfect swagger as the buddy who explains the nature of the Philadelphia, probably the evening's most important part. And Francis is flawless in the most difficult part, the teacher of a made-up universal language called "Unamunda." Almost the entire piece is spoken in a pastiche of pseudo-English, French, German, Latin and plain old nonsense, and if you've had a year of any of those languages in school you'll probably follow what's being said but only if the actor carries off the role with clarity and confidence, which Francis does.

    "All in the Timing" is a real pleasure in the right hands — a collection of brain-teasing comedies that will push your smart buttons while cracking you up repeatedly. And it's in good hands with the Theatre in the Schools group.

    DECEMBER 9, 2002

    Reader comments on All in the Timing:

  • beth dover   from zev braun, Dec 10, 2002
  • AMAZING   from Dan lubers, Apr 13, 2003
  • script   from Sean, Apr 26, 2006
  • Great show   from katelynn Ginn, Nov 16, 2006

  • Post a comment on "All in the Timing"