theatre reviews
Volume 16/Issue 21

by George Patterson

All In The Timing

David Ives is one of several of a new generation of New York playwrights who has made a name for himself with the MTV generation in his masterful ability to write terse playlets of the Saturday Night Live variety with a wit and facility with language that places him head and shoulders above other pretenders to the throne of Neil Simon. Mr. Ives' cerebral, and linguistic, gymnastics make him an American cousin to Britain's Tom Stoppard.

All Mr. Ives has to do now to attain the heights is to sustain this high wire balancing act for a full evening; otherwise, it's TV and movies for him.

The local premiere of his most acclaimed collection of six one acts, now on the boards at Trish Denmark's True Brew Theatre in an immaculate production directed with his usual eye for detail by Carl Walker, finally affords theatre afficiandos with a wonderful taste of this talented playwright's unique world view, which is summed up in one of the evening's best realized and funniest playlets called "The Universal Language."

Eva Earls goes to Gavin Mahlie who teaches a new language called "Unamunda - linkwa looniversahl" because she wants to cure herself of stuttering. She quickly masters this language of hilarious doggerel, cures herself of stuttering, causes her teacher to admit that he is a charletan, then points out that this isn't just any language but they, together, are finding names for a whole new world.

timing Danny Bowen, Doug Mittelstaedt and Rebecca Taliancich portray three chimpanzees in a study to find out if monkeys can type Hamlet. The three monkeys are called Swift, Kafka and Milton and their ministrations, called "Words, Words, Words," while being fun in the shock of recognition, and although quite futile, are nonetheless pointed in their condemnation of science over creativity.

The opening playlet,"Sure Thing," features Doug Mittelstaedt and Tari Hohn Lagasse as two lonely strangers who meet in a coffee shop and get the chance to correct their linguistic gaffs in trying to get to know one another. Every time one or the other puts his or her foot in it, a bell rings, and they start over, this time inching ever forward toward mutual harmony. From the outset, Mr. Ives illustrates with great comic flair the importance of timing in human relationships.

The three playets that comprise the second part of the bill are decidedly less entertaining than the first three, but continue to illuminate the author's overall premise.

"Variations on the Death of Trotsky," continues the time warping idea of "Sure Thing." A calendar on the wall says "August 21, 1940" (the day Trotsky was actually assassinated). Danny Bowen as Trotsky has the hatchet already fimly implanted in his head as his wife, a Golda like Rebecca Taliancich, reads his bio to him from a 1998 encyclopedia explaining his assassination by a Mexican peasant (Doug Mittelstaedt). Here the use of language is a debate in party parlance, nitpicking as to whether the ax was smashed into his head or simply buried.

"The Philadelphia" features Mr. Mahlie as a wiseacre who explains to his befuddled comrade, Mr. Mittelstaedt, for whom nothing seems to go right, that he is in a "Philadelphia," while Mr. Mahlie enjoys the laid back effects of being in a "Los Angeles."

And, finally, the evening buzzes to its swift conclusion with a trifle called "Time Flies" in which Danny Bowen and Tari Hohn Lagasse, both festooned with pink wings, enact the entire life time of a Mayfly - 24 hours--this last playlet supplants "Philip Glass Buys a Loaf of Bread," having been interpolated from yet another collection of Ives one acts called Mere Mortals, a wise choice by director Walker since too much cerebration in the land of the bayous could be hazardous to the box office.

Ron Williams' setting, an enormous clock, seems to mirror the New York original, while Martin Sachs' lighting design is a marvel. The costumes, uncredited, add to the charm.

See this show and meet a new and original American voice.

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