Some experiences can only be had in the theatre. All in the Timing by David Ives, continuing at the Long Beach Playhouse Studio Theatre through Sept. 30, provides just such an event through a set of six rollickingly absurdist one-act comedies.
Each of the six pieces was chosen from Ives’s collection, and dynamically directed, by ‘Phie Mura, and brought to life by nine engaging and committed actors.
In the first piece, “Words, Words, Words,” three monkeys with literary names– Kafka (Laura Clagett), Milton (Mitchell Nunn) and Swift (Arturo Jones)– attempt to type Hamlet without knowing what it is, per the oft-cited probability hypothesis that an infinite number of monkeys randomly typing would eventually produce Shakespeare.
These monkeys, though, are fully aware they are kept in a glass cage for this purpose, creating a send-up of the whole premise as they share their thoughts about the experiment and read what they have written so far.
The second piece also offers a hilarious take on language as Dawn (Katherine White), a lonely woman with a stutter, learns “The Universal Language” from Don (Michael Kaye), who sounds like the Muppets’ Swedish Chef as he teaches in an ingeniously comic language designed to unite the world, bringing Dawn out of her shell.
Language and music are combined artfully, operatically and still hilariously in “Philip Glass Buys a Loaf of Bread,” which features the composer Glass (Brian Pirnat) purchasing bread from a baker (Rick Reichman), along with two women (Clagett and White).
As Glass shops, however, his words morph with the three others’ into rhythmically repetitive phrases (evoking Glass’s music), synced to their choreographed movements. What makes it funny? That Philip Glass can’t buy bread without his artistry taking over, spurred by seemingly mundane verbal exchanges.
This piece (as well as the monkeys piece) also includes delightfully colorful costuming (Rebecca Roth), with the two ladies’ dresses both elegantly formal and vividly whimsical.
The set (Sean Gray) is also colorful and imaginative, working perfectly for each piece. Wall art, such as a Philadelphia highway sign, hints at each act, thus helping to unify the whole series. Music and film clips (such as Charlie Chaplin skits) shown between acts also help each flow into the next rather than the series seeming like disjointed stories.
Further unifying the series are “interviews” with the playwright both at the beginning and end, with Ives played by Kaye and the other actors as reporters with written questions for him to answer. Often we just get his answer, such as “pantyhose,” and are left to muse over what the question could possibly have been.
The remaining acts– “Sure Thing” (a man and woman get to reset their conversation at will by ringing a bell), “The Philadelphia” (explaining why you might be having a bad day) and “Mere Mortals” (three men share who they think they are)– offer further trips into the absurdity and poignancy of the everyday. They also take advantage of the talents of the remaining actors– Kacey Leggio and Larry Mura– who, like the others, deliver their complex parts keenly.
All in the Timing is thoughtfully designed by director Mura to deliver Ives’s creative and inspired works in the most entertaining way. As she says of his play in her notes, “the silliness gives me courage, the philosophy keeps me wondering.” You will certainly feel the same after this uniquely cerebral yet comedic theatrical experience.
All in the Timing continues at the Long Beach Playhouse Studio Theatre, 5021 E. Anaheim St., through Sept. 30, with performances Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sunday at 2pm. Tickets are $20-$24. For tickets and information, call the box office at (562) 494-1014, or visit lbplayhouse.org.