BWW Reviews: Saved by the Bell - ALL IN THE TIMING
When you've got a play written by "one of the 100 smartest New Yorkers" (so sayeth New York Magazine), there's a fair chance you're in for an evening of engaging, erudite entertainment. A contemporary American playwright, David Ives is a Yale-educated author of the comically clever series of six one-act plays, "All in the Timing," at the Fells Point Corner Theater's diminutive Sokal Stage, now through Sept. 1st.
Smartly written, "Timing" is directed by Anne Shoemaker who is also part of the 4-member ensemble cast which includes Holly Gibbs, Brian M. Kehoe and Mike Zemarel. All attired in what might be called "blank slate black," costumes become as simple as a hat, an apron, or an oversized wig complete with embedded mountain climber's axe, as in "Variations on the Death of Leon Trotsky," one of the six 15-minute vignettes.
Fells Point's production features the original six plays -- the aforementioned "Trotsky," "Sure Thing, " "The Universal Language," "Words, Words, Words," "The Philadelphia," and "Philip Glass Buys a Loaf of Bread" - which premiered in 1993 (an updated version features eight additional short plays). All of the works have a comic, surrealistic edge, with a mix of romance, word play, and life perception.
The latter may be seen in "The Philadelphia," where Kehoe and Zemarel explore what it's like to be caught in kind of "singularity" that makes reality like living in Philadelphia (no offense, readers from the City of Brotherly Love). By Ives' standards, this means never getting whatever you want, thus requiring one to "ask for the opposite," i.e. you want a burger and a beer, be sure to order anything but.
"Words, Words, Words," explores the old saying about monkeys with typewriters locked in a room will eventually compose HAMLET...or perhaps Milton's Paradise Lost, or serve as inspiration for Franz Kafka, when they're not flinging bananas, excrement (not really, don't worry) and insults toward each other and the unseen "Dr. Rosenbaum."
"The Universal Language" explores what happens when a shy lady with a stutter happens upon a class in a form of speech ("Unamunda") its inventor hopes will become the planet's parlance, or at least, someone will pay $500 to learn. Kudos to Holly Gibbs and Brian Kehoe for what must have been the Herculean task of memorizing and remember graphs of dialogue in semi-sensical gibberish.
Anne Shoemaker-of Baltimore's first family of community theater, Shoemakers (husband, David, who can be found helping backstage; sister, Catherine, and father-in-law, Josh, all veterans of the theater)-does an exemplary job in keeping the pace as crisp as Ives' dialogue, and it's clear that the actors relish their time on stage, whether they are "dying" from a head injury, navigating a linguistic free-fall, singing about a loaf of bread, or enjoying a California frame of mind. When not performing in one of the six "one-acts," the others are often found watching bemused from the far corners of the stage, occasionally assisting transitions in the action, as in "Sure Thing," with a hotel or "counter top" bell.
The bell is almost a character itself, its chime carrying the conversation between Zemarel's Bill and Shoemaker's Betty in different directions, as though one were witnessing the same conversation between two people but in several parallel universes:
Betty: So you didn't stop to talk because you're a Moonie, or you have some weird political affiliation...?
Bill: Nope. Straight down the ticket Republican.
Straight down the ticket Democrat.
Can I tell you something about politics?
I like to think of myself as a citizen of the universe.
Betty: That's a relief. So am I.
An evening of theater is always a joy when a wonderful script is coupled with fine acting, and that's just the combination you'll find, with chimes, at the Fells Point Corner Theater, 251 South Ann Street, performances at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Sundays at 2 p.m. Admission is $15; for tickets, visit www.fpct.org. (photo by Ken Stanek)