note: entire contents copyright 2010 by Sheila Barth
A delightful artistic bargain in this area is Salem Theatre Company’s precisely timed, one-act, 75-minute sextet of David Ives’ plays, “All in the Timing”. Part of Ives’ collection of quick-hit, staccato-timed vignettes he penned mostly between 1987 and 1993, these theatrical snapshots highlight Ives‘ scintillating love affair with language and wordplay. He also explores existentialist views on life, love and meaning.
Ives stamps a quirky, comedic slant on these lofty-sounding aims, making them fun, not just for theatergoers, but for performers, too. Salem Theatre’s talented ensemble of five obviously relish their interaction and wordplay, while basking in the audience’s enthusiastic response.
Skillfully directed by Steve Rotolo, Miles Hartfelder, Natalie Miller, Kate Ventimiglia, Chelsea’s Libby Schap and Will Neely artfully race through their paces, physically and verbally sparring, spurning, and spurring each other on, with few props and costume changes. (Actor William MacGregor joined the cast Aug. 2).
My favorite is “Time Flies,” the tale of two orphaned mayflies, newly-born at 7:30 a.m. , who frolic together but fear the rumbling sounds of their large, resident pond bullfrog. Their interplay is interrupted by a TV naturalist, exploring their “puddle,” while describing them on TV. That’s how they learn (while doing), their life span is 24 hours. They meet, feed, mate, breed, then die. “Carpe diem,” intones the safari-garbed naturalist - enjoy the present and don’t worry about tomorrow. So they don’t. Excitedly, they fly off to Paris, making every moment count.
The opening play, “Words, Words, Words,” comically portrays three research lab simians, who are locked up, typing on typewriter keyboards, while sharing their inner thoughts together. Chimps Milton, Kafka, and Swift type and scratch, scamper around, while allegedly proving to their human hosts “three monkeys typing into infinity will sooner or later produce ‘Hamlet‘.” As they desultorily pound away on their keyboards, they wish they were back home, in Africa, instead of performing these inane tasks.
In “Sure Thing,” a guy in a cafe tries to pick up a woman who’s disinterested, reading a book. As the two exchange small talk, a waitress rings a silver school bell at crucial times - when he asks her to go to the movies with him. With each response that could go wrong, the bell rings, sometimes faster, until the couple achieves a satisfying conclusion.
“The Philadelphia” is another fun exchange between Alan, who’s high on life, living in a Los Angeles frame of mind, even though his girlfriend left him and he lost his job. Alan advises his depressed pal Marcus, that he’s in a Philadelphia (black hole), but can reverse his luck by asking and answering oppositely what he really wants. And it works. As Marcus becomes friendly with the waitress, she confides she has been in a “Cleveland” all week. The trio’s rapid exchanges lift theatergoers caught in their own Philadelphia out of the doldrums. Not Alan, though. He angrily claims he’s swept up in Marcus’ black hole.
A couple creates the construction of a conversation on the dance floor, when they meet, in “English Made Simple”. Wearing “Hello” name tags, the duo’s timing is exquisite. They present several scenarios, saying one thing to each other, while revealing contrasting subconscious feelings.
In the final play, “Phillip Glass Buys a Loaf of Bread,” the ensemble revs up an improv-style rhythm, a verbal tympanic jubilee, in a repetitive, musical style.
There’s nothing to analyze, criticize, or contemplate here. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy!
BOX INFO: David Ives’ one-act, 75-minute sextet of plays, appearing through Aug. 18 at Salem Theatre Company (90 Lafayette St., Salem), directed by Steve Rotolo: Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. All tickets are $15. Call 978-790-8546, visit www.salemtheatre.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org.