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A CurtainUp Review
All In the Timing
By Elyse Sommer
It is indeed fun to once again see these remarkable complete and somewhat surreal little comic explorations about life and language. Words are a key element throughout — and that's not just in Words, Words, Words which features three monkeys drolly named for literary giants Swift, Kafka and Milton testing a scientific theory that if they talk and type long enough they will eventually bang out Hamlet.
The opening, Sure Thing, hilariously taps into our fantasy of being able to take back what we've said. It plays out within the context of a cafe where a young man named Bill tries to promote a date with an attractive woman named Betty seemingly engrossed in Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury. A ringing bell acts as a rewind button, that allows Bob and Betty to change the previous scenario. The final ring of the bell leads to an unsurprising ending.
The Universal Language, which winds up the linguistics flavored first act, has little to say about literature. It is, in fact, entirely scripted in the strange gibberish that turns out to be an absurd alternative language named Unamunda being taught by an obvious fraud named Don. But student enrollment isn't leeny, bleeny" (meaning good), which sets the scene for an obviously needy stammerer named Dawn to be his lone victim. (Ives's linguistic tastes also run to alliterative names for his strangers who meet and connect).
The second act includes three more devilishly amusing classic Ives characters. Sandwiched between the renowned composer Phillip Glass (Phillip Glass Buys a Loaf of Bread) and the famous revolutionary, Leon Trotsky, is my own favorite about two ordinary guys who become entrapped in a dismal run of bad luck Ives describes as The Philadelphia.
True to the overall title, making this absurdist humor work, is all about timing. In terms of the actors' timing, that couldn't be better. In addition to landing their lines with comic precision, all five actors are on the button with their physical performances. Even wild sight gags like Matthew Saldivar's pretending to be unaware of the axe stuck in the back of his Trotsky's head are saved from mere cartoonishness. All switch facial expressions as well as costumes to go with their various personas on a dime.
Each cast member handles at least three roless with aplomb Liv Rooth manages to be both an attractive single woman, a wild and wooly monkey and a rather dumpy Mrs. Trosky. Jenn Harris is an actress who can be a riot by just raising an eyebrow. Her endearing stutterer turns convincingly tough as the waitress who's out of everything in The Philadelphia. The three men display equal versatility. and the entire cast works as a solid team in the Phillip Glass Buys a Loaf Of Bread which, if All In the Timing were a musical, would be tagged as its big production number
Mr. Rando, who is known for his way with keeping things moving along fast and fluidly and look good, has assembled a great design team to help him do so here. He's masterfully choreographed the actors' exits and entrances through the various doors of Beowulf Boritt's deceptively simple set — even moving props in and out as needed. I don't remember the original show being quite this much of a production so I suppose that this more elaborate staging with all the between acts business accounts mainly for this running a bit on the long side.
he has adapted 32 musical books for the City Center Encores! Actually Ives wrote fourteen of these little gems before moving on to his adaptatopms Encores! concert series and his updates of Moliere's School for Lies and Sacher-Masoch's novella Venus In Fur. In the thousands of productions world wide, Ives' mini-masterpieces have been presented in various combinations. If I remember correctly, the original production I saw featured Foreplay, or The Art of the Fugue and Mere Mortals instead of Sure Thing and Words, Words, Words. I suppose one day someone is going to do an Ives marathon. In the meantime, the current sextet provides more than enough laughs to at least temporarily stop worrying about the economy, the world situation, or impending storms.
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