David Ives' All in the Timing is a parodoxical comedy comprising of six acts, which I recently had the opportunity to see interpreted by the American University Department of Performing Arts under the direction of Caleen Sinette Jeannings.
The first selection is entitled Sure Thing. It is a chronicle of the possibilities that exist when two people try to have a cup of coffee together. It starts with the question "is that seat taken?" with responses starting with "yes, I'm waiting for someone" to "no, have a seat." It takes a few moments to become comfortable with the switching of scenes but it is eerily mesmerising to watch the scene unfold and recognize that you yourself have been in that exact position.
The second selection, Trotsky, is about Leon Trotsky. He has a mountain climber's axe smashed/buried into his skull by his communist gardener, Ramon (Dan Shachner), the day before, yet he remembers nothing. His ice pick phobia is the focus of this act, but it is the mountain climber's axe that does him in. The weird part (yes, something weirder that an ice pick fetish) is that his wife comes in the room with an encyclopedia from the 1990s (the play is set in 1940s) to inform him that the book says he is going to die today. This wasn't my favorite act.
The third selection, Philadelphia, is interesting. It takes place in a coffee shop where the various inhabitants are stuck in different "cities" or states of mind. The person in a Los Angeles is perpetually carefree and doesn't get upset that his wife left him, or that he just lost his job. The person in a Chicago feels worse than dead, and the person in a Philadelphia gets exactly the opposite of what he asks for. The person in the Los Angeles explains everthing to the person in the Philadelphia so he finally learns to ask for the opposite of what he wants. Unfortunately, the person in the Los Angeles gets sucked into the other person's Philadelphia and he finally feels the pain of losing his job and wife.
The fourth selection is called English Made Simple. I liked this one too. It involves a man and a woman (Ami-Sue Enns) at a party who are demonstrating language for the labcoat-wearing-maybe-psychologist person also on stage. This reminded me a lot of the first selection, Sure Thing, when a variety of possible outcomes were presented. I did like the psychologist character though. I should mention that the entire play is case in a setting where it appears as though the characters are some part of a psychological experiment, with the scientists conducting the experiment changing the parametres and making observations.
The fifth selection is called Words, Words, Words. It is a bizarre look into the lives of three monkeys who are chosen for an experiment with the following premise: If a monkey type long enough at a typewriter, it will eventually come up with Hamlet. The lesson here is one of objectification: the monkeys are forced to do what their captors order them to do. The actors present their futile fate to the audience well.
The sixth and final selection of the evening is called The Universal Language. It involves a shyster (Dan Shachner) who makes up a "language" and then offers to teach it to people (passing it off as "The Universal Language") for a rather large sum of money. He claims that it will catch on like wildfire and soon everyone will be speaking it. His first pupil is a shy, stuttering girl with little money who hopes that this new language will help her overcome her speech problems and let her meet people. The teacher speaks in this "new" language for a good part of the scene so it is kind of hard to understand him, but in the end the two of them fall in love with each other and all's well.
As should be obvious from the reviews, the play is fragmented, pardoxical, twisted, convulted, and highly amusing. The reviews above simply describe what happens, but there are deeper lessons to be learned from each act---definitely worth checking out if it ever comes near you.