Lives of the Saints
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Lives of the Saints: Theater review by David Cote
Just as the short-story collection is an endangered species in the publishing world, a night of one-act plays can be a tough sell. There’s a whiff of shallowness or gimmickry that dogs a program of short dramatic (or, more likely, comic) works. Luckily we have an expert practitioner in David Ives, who follows up All in the Timing (1993) and Mere Mortals (1997) with this new sampler of the whimsical, the outlandish and, above all, the brief. If you find yourself losing interest in the fellow having an affair with his washing machine, just wait a short while for the talking corpse.
The six playlets that make up Lives of the Saints are neatly divided: three light sketches about ethics in friendship, obsessive love and déjà vu; and then three about regret, the road not taken and, well, death. Though the postintermission vibe shifts into a grimmer key, it’s never at the expense of laughs, which are plentifully supplied throughout. Ives puns shamelessly, keeps the Surrealist torch burning and pulls off the hat trick of combining broad comedy, linguistic deftness and philosophical depth.
The team behind this brisk and shiny production couldn’t be finer: director John Rando corrals Carson Elrod, Liv Rooth, Arnie Burton, Rick Holmes, and Kelly Hutchinson through dozens of characters with precision comic timing and irresistible verve and appeal. With them, zaniness is next to godliness.—David Cote
Primary Stages (at the Duke on 42nd Street) (see Off Broadway). By David Ives. Directed by John Rando. With ensemble cast. Running time: 2hrs. One intermission.