All in the Timing
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All in the Timing: Theater review by David Cote. Primary Stages. By David Ives. Dir. John Rando. With ensemble cast. 1hr 45mins. One intermission.
Memory is a critic’s prime asset, but I have trouble recalling details from the first production of All in the Timing 20 years ago. Sure, who could forget the comic brio of actors Robert Stanton and Nancy Opel? Or the inspired premises behind David Ives’s high-concept sketches? But I don’t remember the show as quite this funny or laced with moments of poignance. And I am sure to remember Primary Stages’ blissfully silly revival, stuffed with big laughs and zestfully performed by a cast of lovable loons.
Staged by John Rando (Urinetown) in designer Beowulf Boritt’s vertiginous, forced-perspective playroom, these absurd vignettes exhibit their age only in minor ways. When the shy, stuttering Dawn (Jenn Harris) shows up for language instruction in the Esperanto-like gibberish Unamunda, she says she’s a word processor. If someone made a similar assertion these days, you’d be tempted to respond, “Who isn’t?” Otherwise, the lack of cell phones, laptops and jokes about Twitter makes no difference to the portrayals: scenes of chimps forced to type all day to prove the hypothesis that enough apes, typewriters and time will produce Hamlet; variations on the death of Trotsky in Mexico (ax handle already protruding from his skull); and the bravura piece of music-theater parody, Philip Glass Buys a Loaf of Bread. The latter lampoon, whose content is pretty much summed up in the title, gives Ives a chance to use a few banal pieces of dialogue to imitate the composer’s minimalist arpeggios, while Rando goes to town with a mock–Einstein on the Beach orgy of pretentious tableaux. The ensemble—Harris, Carson Elrod, Liv Rooth, Matthew Saldivar and Eric Clem—couldn’t be more appealing or versatile. Their timing, needless to say, is impeccable.—David Cote
Follow David Cote on Twitter: @davidcote