A six pack of comedy is coming your way as the summer sizzles to a close. Fells Point Corner Theatre presents All in the Timing by David Ives, a series of six one-acts that are sure to bring about a chuckle or two, but most likely will have you laughing until your sides are sore. Directed by Anne Shoemaker, with just four performers in the show, this production is a scintillating dose of comic calamity.
Director Anne Shoemaker really finds the comedy in this irreverent series of one-acts, pushing her cast deep into the work so that they find the organic moments of actual comedy without feeling contrived. The rapid pacing of the production allows for the comedy to flow naturally, and Shoemaker instills a keen sense of pickups and hand-offs among the two-person scenes to really enhance this effect. In addition to the perfect pacing, Shoemaker’s work with the cast infuses a sense of improvised comedy to the scripted work; a brilliant thing to see in action giving the comic moments even more surface to land with the audience. Easily avoiding the traps of comedy for the sake of laughing, Shoemaker does a superior job of executing the play’s high-brow sense of intellectual comedy.
Featuring Anne Shoemaker and Mike Zemarel, the pair start a scene in a nondescript restaurant/coffee shop location and begin a simple conversation. The simplicity of this play ends there as every few lines a bell (slightly off stage being controlled by Brian M. Kehoe) dings and starts a series of lines over again. What makes this particular production brilliant is that each ding of Kehoe’s bell changes the outcome of that segment of the scene. Actively engaging with Zemarel because he’s facing him, Kehoe plays facial expressions that respond brilliantly to everything that he says. Zemeral and Shoemaker has perfect timing as they zip through the lines, establishing a brilliant rapport that infuses subtle flirtations and social awkwardness to the point of hilarity. The comedy comes naturally in this show and feels thoroughly improvised every time Kehoe dings the bell. The nature of this play is repetitive but therein lies the inherent humor.
The Universal Language
A play on Esperanto, the actual universal language, this play starts off with a very nervous Holly Gibbs coming to take lessons in the fictional universal language of “Unamundo” to help improve her social anxiety and stutter. Taught by the clever and crafty Brian M. Kehoe, the pair quickly establish a working chemistry that builds as the scene progresses.
Kehoe’s ability to master the gibberish language is impressive. He emotes the sounds of the English words without ever using the actual English so that the audience and his scene partner can follow along. Gibbs is equally expressive once she begins to learn the fantasy jumbo and her face lights up with glee when she discovers its not as hard as she once thought.
The real kicker of this play is the goofy little references thrown into the fake language, and the deeply rewarding sweet and honest payoff at the end of the show. This play in particular may take the title of funniest in show, especially if you try to keep up with Kehoe’s and Gibbs’ exchange. DING!
Words, Words, Words
Possibly the most ridiculous of the six included in the show, this production featured Mike Zemarel, Brian M. Kehoe, and Holly Gibbs as chimps. As the old saying goes a monkey in front of a type writer long enough will eventually produce Hamlet; that notion is played to fruition here. The physicality in this scene is brilliant, each of the actors crouching and loping about in their primitive evolutionary manners. Kehoe and Zemarel take turns up on the makeshift tire swing and badgering each other over the impossibility of the situation they find themselves in. Gibbs uses her blank stares into space to express the never ending dread of being stuck in captivity and expected to produce things that they simply do not understand. Watch out for when Zemarel goes ape— it’s quite frightening. The little gestures, particularly the way Zemarel keeps his arms close to his chest and the way the group clamors over each other, is what really helps the suspension of disbelief in this show. Now if they’d just quit monkeying around… the litany of literary references might not get lost in the peels.
Variations on the Death of Leon Trotsky
Again featuring the bell, only this time when it dings, as one might expect from the title, the character of Leon Trotsky (Brian M. Kehoe) occurs in variation. Kehoe, paried with Gibbs as his wife in this performance, both play solid Russian-esque accents. Gibbs has a series of spastic outbreaks that all arise in a panic when she discovers that her husband is to have a mountain climber’s ax (ice pick?) buried (smashed?) into his skull. The whole scene is one big rolling play on various words that results in reoccurring death and shenanigans. Gibbs amuses herself into hysteria at the end of one of the deaths and that really gets the audience going. See if you too can keep track of how may times Kehoe falls down dead. It’s to die for!
Mike Zemarel starts with an unctuous approach, badgering poor Anne Shoemaker, the makeshift waitress in this piece. Add in an edgy Brian Kehoe because nothing in his day is going right and you’ve got yourself a Philadelphia. This play takes various cities across the country and turns them into states of existence, the Philadelphia being the one where you can never get anything you want so you have to ask for things in a backward manner, the LA being the one where everything is calm and groovy and so on. There’s even a local reference of Baltimore thrown in for cover. This production presents the perfect vantage point to watch both Kehoe and Zemarel really lose their mind and go completely postal; brilliant over the top acting if ever such a thing could be labeled. Try not too think too hard on this one or you’ll find yourself in a Philadelphia.
Philip Glass Buys a Loaf of Bread
Don’t even try to make sense of this one. Take it for what it is; an end cap to a madcap evening of hilarious theatre. A very rhythm driven piece of performance art that involves word repetition involving the entire cast, and there’s little more that can be said for it. Mike Zemarel features as Philip Glass, if such a person in existence is to be believed, and watching him mental deteriorate in front of your eyes is an intense experience because his emotions are laid out so clearly across his face. Zemarel is being pulled and pushed and driven mad by the unseen force of the throbbing beat, the words of the others driving his mind and body to distraction. The other three voices of Kehoe, Gibbs, and Shoemaker really hone the enigmatic pulse of this piece, like a metronome wound too tight. Time is a moment, sir, and in this case it possesses you, even if it may not make sense.
Running Time: 1 hour and 40 minutes, with one intermission.
All in the Timing plays through September 1, 2013 at Fells Point Corner Theatre— 251 South Ann Street, in Fells Point in Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (410) 276-7837, or purchase them online.