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|A CurtainUp San Diego Review
By Gordon Osmond
San Diego's Old Globe Theatre is presenting a new collection of short plays from the intelligent and playful pen of David Ives, a prolific writer of plays of various lengths best known for his previous hit collection, All in the Timing. Actually, all but two of the plays in the collection have been produced previously and reviewed on this site. (See links below).
As for the familiar, not for the first time in presenting an Ives collection, the program order of the plays has been altered. The evening starts out with the tale of two horny (or whatever those head ornaments are called) mayflies who discover in the course of watching David Attenborough on television in the pair's pad (lily, as it happens) that their birthdays and death days are all one and the same. Time Flies is followed by an equally broad, and sometimes overly loud, interpretation of Babel's in Arms wherein two B.C. moving men are enlisted to help build the famous tower. When the action shifts to England in The Mystery at Twicknam Vicarage, Ives' particular brand of camp comes more to the fore as a group of plummy Brits compete with furniture and floor coverings for the sexual favors of the future murder victim. Using his entire cast of five, Ives has a jolly good time taking the starch out of the standard inhabitants of British stage and film murder mysteries. The evening ends with a pair of elderly church helpers preparing for a funeral breakfast. The basic sentimentality of the piece, rooted perhaps in the author's aborted preparations for the priesthood, is delightfully relieved by two guardian angels who join in to help the ladies with their sound effects.
The two new playlets seem to represent an effort to extend the playwright's expression beyond the quirky, pun/fun filled, alliteration-drenched fantasies of his earlier short works. In Bolero, a couple's dealing with noisy neighbors is delivered in nearly naturalistic terms (even with nods to Mamet) and the result is as flat as the bed upon which most of the action of the play takes place. (The Cassius Carter's round and sunken playpen really comes in handy when matters turn horizontal.) If a decision were made to have the number of plays being presented equal the number of actors presenting them, Bolero would be a clear candidate for excision.
On the other hand, the equally new The Green Hill proved to this viewer to be the highlight of the evening due in no small part to the theatre's design team who gave outstanding audio visual support to this and all the other plays. Although the theme of this tale of mid-life searching and dreaming, like that of many of the playwright's shorter works, is fortune-cookie-friendly, it doesn't seem to matter when the quality of the presentation is at such a high level.
Matt August, often an assistant to other directors, including the playwright's familiar collaborator John Rando, steps out impressively on his own with well considered attention to the strong visual images and stage patterns which, to the playwright's credit, are such an integral part of the plays. August, and we, are blessed with an outstanding cast most all of whom are new to the Old Globe. Particularly impressive was David Adkins as the seeker of truth in The Green Hill and the wayward cleric in The Mystery at Twicknam Vicarage. In sum, the Globe is throwing a party featuring familiar friends, a stellar addition to the social circle and, as luck would have it, a gate crasher.
LINKS TO PREVIOUS DAVID IVES PLAY REVIEWS
a Lives of the Saints
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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