All in the Timing
"All in the Timing," a wacky and surreal collection of intimate short plays by David Ives, is a fine example of how one-acts can be just as well-crafted and thought-provoking as any full-length play.
It's fitting that Off-Broadway's Primary Stages, which produced "All in the Timing" 20 years ago, should present its first major New York revival.
Most of Ives' recent plays have been takeoffs of classic material, such as "Venus in Fur" (inspired by the Austrian erotic novel of the same name) and "Is He Dead?" (a brush-up of a Mark Twain comedy).
While "All in the Timing" also displays Ives' impressive literacy (the characters in the second one-act are named Kafka, Milton and Swift), it is strange and experimental in nature (Kafka, Milton and Swift are chimps attempting to write "Hamlet" on typewriters as part of a lab experiment).
The premise of "Sure Thing," the first of the one-acts, involves a man who walks up to a woman in a coffee shop and tries to begin a conversation. Every time he says something wrong, a bell rings and he gets another shot until it has gone perfectly.
Ives is also fond of exploring wordplay and sound. In "The Universal Language," a professor speaks pure gibberish, leaving the audience to figure out what he is saying. And in "Philip Glass Buys a Loaf of Bread," a few phrases are repeated in endless variations.
In "Variations in the Death of Trotsky," the title character comes to realize that a garden worker struck him with an ax the day before. The tool is now smashed into his head, leaving him to ponder what it all means.
John Rando has directed a first-rate, very enjoyable revival. Among the fine five-member cast, Carson Elrod, who appears in five out of the six one-acts, stands out for his extreme theatricality and upbeat spirit.
If you go: "All in the Timing" plays through March 17. 59 E. 59th St., 212-279-4200, primarystages.org.