Regional Reviews: San Diego
All in the Timing
Using short plays that were written between 1987-1993, the evening starts off with the most grounded and least fanciful narrative, Sure Thing, which follows the different outcomes of Bill (Christian Pedersen), a flirtatious man attempting to talk to Betty (Noelle Marion), an attractive woman, at a restaurant. From there, the subsequent narratives become increasingly extravagant as chimps try to write Hamlet in Words, Words, Words, composer Philip Glass (Omri Schein) and other people sing in a bakery in Philip Glass Buys a Loaf of Bread, and Trotsky (Schein) suffers multiple deaths from a mountain climber's axe in Variations on the Death of Trotsky.
Ives' dialogue is funny and he doesn't take the events in his plays too seriously. While some of his casual references to people such as Woody Allen and Mel Gibson may appear a bit dated in 2019, most of his humor has aged well and gives the ensemble plenty of material to work with. The stories are equally creative and smartly structured, and all of them are enjoyable. One of the stories usually performed in All in the Timing, Philadelphia, was replaced by in this production by another Ives short play. Foreplay, or The Art of the Fugue is about three versions of a ladies' man, Chuck (Schein, David McBean and Pedersen), taking dates to the Lilliput Lane miniature golf course. Although I can't comment on how this compares with Philadelphia, Foreplay is one of the few stories in which the entire cast is shown together onstage.
Of all the performers playing multiple roles, Schein and McBean are given the most demanding material. Schein gives an appropriately self-serious and sometimes delightfully silly vocal performance as Philip Glass, and displays his physical comedic chops in playing Trotsky. McBean (also the show's music director) is featured in almost every scene, and he impresses in The Universal Language with his total commitment to the role of Don, a teacher, who has come up with his own language, Unamunda. It's difficult not to laugh when seeing McBean speak the ridiculous fictional language fluently for an extended period. The other players are also quite comical, with Pedersen, Marion, Uma Incrocci, and Taylor Renee Henderson getting their fair share of laughs as well. Artistic Director David Ellenstein makes each of these characters enjoyable to watch.
Ellenstein gets theatregoers invested in the stories very quickly. He's able to obtain plenty of entertaining moments from Ives' several one-on-one conversations. His design team incorporates several witty touches in the short plays. Marty Burnett's set smartly represents the manner in which Ives plays with time, and Elisa Benzoni's costumes and Matt Novotny's lighting highlight the overtly dramatic presentation of Philip Glass Buys a Loaf of Bread. In addition, the popular songs in Aaron Rumley's audio and his projections help set the stage for different stories.
By dealing with such a wide variety of subjects, Ellenstein's production is a sharp testament to Ives' prose. The strong work from the ensemble ensures that good comedy is not in short supply during the evening.
All in the Timing, through May 5, 2019, at North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Suite D, Solana Beach CA. Performances are Sundays through Saturdays. Tickets start at $42.00 and can be purchased online at www.northcoastrep.org or by phone at 858-481-1055.