Ever wonder what would happen if you took theater, literature, linguistics, and film, put them into a blender, and then wrote a collection of witty comedic scenes with the reference puree that resulted? You’d probably come close to the layered fun of All in the Timing but you certainly couldn’t touch the creativity at the heart of this delightful collection by David Ives. Currently playing at the Silver Spring Stage, this smart series of six one-act plays, directed by Rob Gorman, is as engaging as it is funny and even more unexpected.
First on deck was “Words, Words, Words,” which contemplated the conversations of monkeys over typewriters. Day after day they chattered, screeched, and clacked keys attempting to positively prove the Infinite Monkey Theory of randomization and infinity by producing Hamlet from their plunking. Milton, played by Matthew Bannister; Kafka, played by Rebecca Shoer; and Swift, played by Omar Latiri, excelled at the challenge of weaving monkey-ing around with the writing philosophies of some of the literary greats. Shoer leaned delightfully hard into the existential crises of Kafka, Bannister’s lyrical poeticism (and soothingly convenient British accent) as Milton was prose to the ears, and Latiri’s hotheaded Swift bounced off of the bars.
“Variations on the Death of Trotsky” played amusingly well on the concepts of music and Marxist theories. Waking up to find a mountain climber’s axe embedded (smashed!) into his skull, Trotsky, played by Michael Reilly, and his wife, played by Brianna Goode, meet death with Russian stoicism and some impressively damp accents. In the ever-building vignettes, Trotsky, Mrs. Trotsky, and their gardener Ramon, played by Latiri, live out the last potential whispers of his life.
Closing out the first half was “The Universal Language.” Suffering from a confidence-shaking stutter, Dawn, played by Erin Schwartz walks into the small classroom to meet Don, the creator of Unamuna, played by the effervescent Latiri. Armed with hope that this universal language would give her a steady voice, Dawn absorbs this new and yet oddly familiar language with impressive speed. Also featuring David Dieudonne, words fly and phonetic mash-ups are born in this sing-songy jive of a one-act. Infectiously charming from start to finish, it sent me into intermission with a smile on my face. Squeegee? Ding!
Welcoming the audience back from intermission is a one-act anything but welcoming for the characters who find themselves trapped inside. “The Philadelphia” introduces Mark (Dieudonne), who can’t seem to get anything he asks for. Unperturbed, his friend Al (Bannister) explains that Mark is in a Philadelphia, i.e., a metaphysical state named for that unfortunate city of brotherly love where no one ever gets anything they want and where terrible combinations have always originated, see the “cheesesteak.” Where is Al, might you ask? Not in Philadelphia but Los Angeles: another metaphysical state where the nonchalant residents can’t seem to get worked up about anything at all. Popping in and out, being no help whatsoever, was the gleefully dry waitress played by Shoer. Her wry and alliterative retorts sparkled and spread misery every time she stepped into the room.
Immediately following and almost completely opposite was the clever and repetitive “Philip Glass Buys a Loaf of Bread.” Featuring Bannister as the Baker, Reilly as Philip Glass, Schwartz as Woman 1, and Goode as Woman 2, we find Glass having an existential crisis while trying to place an order. Be sure to brush up on your Glassian compositions because this one-act pokes merciless fun at the composer whose polarizing composition style has become infamous.
Rounding out the evening was “Sure Thing,” in which Bill (Dieudonne) and Betty (Goode) navigate the awkward and rocky terrain of casual small talk. Unsure of what avenue of conversation to take “Sure Thing” is packed with restarts, gaffes, and boxing bells when one of them strikes out. While all of the one-acts played with the concept of time, this concluding piece most clearly illustrated the random and uncontrollable power of timing and chance in our lives to deliver us to the endings we hope for. Every jolt forward and slide back was masterfully executed by Dieudonne and Goode, slowly revealing a true connection.
Supporting the comedic banter and absurdism of the ensemble cast was a stellar production staff. Producer & Stage Manager Pam Burks and Director Rob Gorman infused even the scene changes with panache. The vibrant set, designed by Leigh K. Rawls, was a whimsical combination of a MOMA exhibit and a Portland, OR coffee shop painted entirely white to showcase the quirky lighting design by Steve Deming. Foam word boards swung, flipped, slapped, and fell across the stage, thanks to the property design by Kelsey Gay, and the amusing array of chatter, dings, chords, and tunes from sound designer Jeff Miller only added to each one-act’s humorous potency. For the musical interludes, choreography by Aly Cardinalli and musical direction by Michael Reilly did Philip Glass proud with its circling variations. Last but certainly not least was the videography by Leigh K. Rawls and Artistic Liaison Jacy D’Aiutolo, whose subtle illuminations and quirky touches added to the overall authenticity of each act’s outlandish premise.
Never knowing when or where the next reference was going to pop out from, the anticipation built into every second of All in the Timing was deliciously good fun. This constant, engaging, and entertaining production is built for liberal arts nerds (like me!) and carries on Silver Spring Stage’s strong tradition of giving one-act plays their place in the sun. Well done!
Running Time: Two hours, including one 15-minute intermission.