David Ives’ All in the Timing, a collection of six one act plays first performed in 1993, focuses on human love, life, and death (and even manages to dive in to a primate’s view of the world) all whilst being a side-splitting intelligent comedy. The Catonsville based Heritage Players chose six different directors, one for each piece, and are admirably able to keep one consistent vision throughout the 90-minute show. A first-rate performance by Andrew Worthington, a Scene Stealer whenever he takes the stage, as well as tremendous source material and watchful directing, make All in the Timing an entertaining production.
We start Timing off with The Philadelphia, directed by David Hale. Two friends, Al (Stuart Kazanow) and Mark (Tim Wolf) meet at a coffee shop in New York. Mark’s morning has been less than enjoyable- he can’t get anything he wants, anywhere. A kosher deli doesn’t have pastrami, and a cab he asks to take him uptown offers to take him to Newark instead. Al calmly explains that Mark is in a metaphysical state called “A Philadelphia,” where if you want something, you get just the opposite. Al is in “A Los Angeles,” a relaxed state where he doesn’t particularly care that he lost his job and that his wife left him just hours prior. Al coaches Mark on how to navigate through “The Philadelphia” – When he wants to see the waitress (Amanda Fossett), he loudly calls “fuck you!” offstage. She attentively arrives at the table, ready to take Mark’s order. The scene, which starts out slow at the beginning, culminates to an energetic and very funny ending.
Next on the bill is Sure Thing, with Jonathon Sachsman at the helm. Sure Thing’s premise is simple: Bill (Peter Eichman) and Betty (Elizabeth Worthington) meet at a coffee shop. Bill courts Betty. Something goes wrong. A bell rings, and the action moves back to just before Bill or Betty led the encounter to stray from a romantic end. Eventually, through many entertaining missteps, along with energetic and frequent bell-ringing, Bill and Betty get it right, presumably together for a long time to come. While it could benefit from quicker pacing, Sure Thing is heartwarmingly hilarious.
After Sure Thing comes the delightfully absurd Phillip Glass Buys a Loaf of Bread. Here, Director Andrew Worthington takes on an extremely challenging script; a pseudo musical that requires intense choreography. He (and his talented actors) do not miss a beat, as the minimalist modern composer Phillip Glass (an excellent and physical Stuart Kazanow) walks into a bake shop to buy a loaf of bread. We hear a familiar bell ring, and then begin to see inside the mind of Phillip Glass. What is revealed as a four to six second encounter booms into a chaotic five minutes as Glass speaks to two women in the shop (Amanda Fossett and Kat McKerrow) and the Baker, played by the unfairly talented Mr. Worthington, whom not only directs and perfectly choreographs Mr. Glass’ amusing slight insanity, but has a commanding stage presence, and perfect comedic timing. An apt end to the first act, this is certainly a standout of the production.
To start act two, Joshua McKerrow gives us the quirky Variations on the Death of Trotsky, a scene that imagines the last day of the Russian Revolutionary Leon Trotsky’s life. At the orders of Stalin, Trotsky (played by Peter Eichmman) was assassinated on August 20, 1940 in suburban Mexico City by Ramon Mercader (Elizabeth Worthington). Trotsky didn’t die until the next evening; that’s where Ives begins to play. The action takes place on August 21, 1940, where Mrs. Trotsky (Kat McKerrow) reads an encyclopedia entry to her husband which is dated 2014, and explains the details of his impending death. Trotsky has a mountain climbers axe (Not an icepick, as we are frequently reminded- he’s deathly afraid of those) protruding visibly out of his head, which he apparently hasn’t noticed. At the end of each short sketch, some of which make groan worthy puns about the situation (“Maybe he was trying to pick your brain”), and some of which contemplate the nature of life and death themselves, Trotsky dies. Death of Trotsky suffers from some pacing issues, and Ms. Worthington takes a fun, outlandishly written cameo role and plays it meekly. The hilarity of the script, though, cannot help but induce great laughter.
We move on to Universal Language, directed by Stephen Deininger, the far and away best scene in Timing. A disarmingly honest Emily Lambert plays Dawn, who walks into a classroom looking to learn a new universal language known as Unamunda. Don, portrayed by the criminally underutilized Andrew Worthington, is the teacher of this language class, and only speaks in this gibberish language. Much of this sketch is Ives simply having fun, showing off his innate ability as a wordsmith, but as Dawn learns more and more of the language, even some of its’ suspect translations (English is “John Cleese,” Mouth is “Da Hoover,” Male is “Assbutten”), we see a lovely chemistry evolve, and the two characters begin to fall in love. Dawn’s insecurities fall away; The actors find both the subtle and the slapstick with ease, and make this a seamless scene.
Words, Words, Words wraps up Timing, and features three fittingly named Monkeys: Milton (Stuart Kazanow), Kafka (Kat McKerrow), and Swift (Peter Eichman). Drew Loughlin directs the tandem, who are locked in a cage as subjects of an experiment testing the theory that if monkeys type long enough, they’ll eventually produce Hamlet. Some of them get close, some produce gibberish, some just “Socks, bratwurst, tinkerbell.” Full of literary allusion, the comedy often fails to surface through the dense sea of language that is the aptly named Words, Words, Words. The actors are wonderfully physical in embodying their primate cousins, however, and the scene is thought provoking and sometimes very funny.
An unassuming yet effective lighting design by Mark Scanga, along with the upbeat soundtrack and sound design by Stuart Kazanow and Drew Loughlin, , featuring the likes of Nat King Cole and Eddie Cantor, frames the play elegantly.
If you’re looking for a fun time in the theatre, make sure to check out The Heritage Players’ delightful production of All in the Timing.
Running Time: 90 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.
All in the Timing plays through August 17, 2014 at The Heritage Players performing at The Thomas-Rice Auditorium-at Spring Grove Hospital Center-55 Wade Avenue, in Catonsville, MD. For tickets call the box office at (443) 575-6645, or purchase them online, or at the door.