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Review: 'All in the Timing' has wordplay and wit

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 13, 2013 at 1:03 pm •  Published: February 13, 2013

NEW YORK (AP) — With perfect timing to brighten winter doldrums comes a revival of David Ives' hilarious six-pack of one-act plays, "All In the Timing."

The comical, witty and very well-acted production by Primary Stages opened Tuesday night at 59E59 Theaters. It's a 20th anniversary celebration for the plays in New York as well as for Primary Stages, who produced them off-Broadway in 1993 where they ran for more than 600 performances.

Ives, most recently known for his Tony Award-nominated play "Venus in Fur," displays a gentle, wacky sense of fun that overlays his dazzling skill with wordplay in "All In The Timing." Skillfully directed by John Rando with a keen eye for creating humor with every little detail, the hardworking cast of five races from one loopy scenario to the next.

The opening vignette, "Sure Thing", features Carson Elrod and Liv Rooth as two apparently single people meeting in a cafe. His attempts to pick her up occur with repetitive conversational bursts that stop and rewind a little bit each time he hits a dead end, replaying with increasing speed. Ives has mastered dozens of comical ways a pick-up attempt can flame out, and while Rooth's character has heard it all before, Elrod's determination to get to a "yes" lends poignancy to the humor.

In "Words, Words, Words," three trapped laboratory monkeys in colorful human costumes are being forced to type until they create "Hamlet." Elrod, Rooth and Matthew Saldivar each put a different and engaging spin on their simian enactments. Squatting on their perches, they spout unexpected bits of literary philosophy, then revert to hooting and bouncing up and down in comically ape-like excitement.

Ives' clever wordsmithing is profoundly on display in "The Universal Language", where a timid, stuttering woman, (Jenn Harris), visits the nutty instructor (Elrod) of a class in the artificial language he calls Unamunda. Ives inventively mixes gobbledygook with almost understandable syllables, like "Johncleese" for "English" and "tonguestoppard" for "stutter." Harris' character somehow intuits Unamunda and quickly becomes fluent, losing her tonguestoppard while the laughs and puns fly.

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