Wednesday, May 22, 2013

SVSU's "All in the Timing" a don't miss play

Amanda Moths and Isaac Wood in "Variations on the Death of Trotsky"

review and photos by janet i. martineau

Three chimpanzees writing “Hamlet.” Leon Trotsky with an axe sticking out of his head as he replays his assassination in eight variations. And Philadelphia, where if you want one thing you ask for its exact opposite.

And to say nothing of hearing a totally made up language.

Opening tonight (May 22) and running through Friday is “All in the Timing,” Saginaw Valley State University’s first show of the summer season in its intimate Black Box Theater.  And it is a hilarious DO NO MISS if you love word play, cultural references, romantic pick up lines and and just plain silly nonsense.

Five short one-act plays all penned by David Ives, wrapped up in less than 90 minutes with no intermission, nicely acted by a cast of  seven with most of them playing two or three roles, solid direction by David Rzeszutek, and an eye-pleasing set of time pieces.

And a NIGHTMARE for its cast as it ticks along at a rapid pace. Indeed all in the timing, which they have down pat. But worse, a dialogue nightmare in four of its five segments.

Dave Ryan, Erica Coleman, Jordan Stafford in "The Philadelphia"
“The Universal Language,” acted by Isaac Wood and Mykaela Hopps, deals with the Wood character having formed a new universal language and introducing it to stuttering student Hopps  -- one with just enough English in it that the audience actually begins to understand it, but the bulk of it new non words combined  with German and Romance language words or cultural references. 

Like rrongplatz meaning wrong place; Joe DiMaggio spoken for that’s too bad.  I

magine memorizing that and pulling it off as if it is real.

In “The  Philadelphia,” Dave Ryan encounters an unreal realm called “a Philadelphia” when he enters a restaurant where Jordan Stafford is sitting and learns that whatever you want you ask for its opposite -- which he puts to the test with waitress Erica Coleman, to which she responds in a fast repartee.  Like if you want fries, you order a baked potato.

Again, much concentration from the actors as the mind struggles to go against the grain.

In both “Sure Thing” and “Variations on the Death of Trotsky,” it is keeping focus in where you are at in the script since in both ...well, you just have to see them. The dialogue is layered, each segment with repetition or resetting  that only slightly varies and in doing so inches closer and closer to the finale.

Hopps and Stafford are in “Sure Thing,” cast  as two people meeting by chance in a cafe and carefully connecting by resetting their conversation. They are dizzying in pulling it off. And Wood and Amanda Moths are the Russian revolutionary Trotsky and his wife offering variations on how he died -- with a mountain-climber’s axe protruding from his head throughout, a canned laugh track like the television comedies sport,  and a bell sound separating each variation.

As for the fifth segment, “Words, Words, Words,” it requires much physicality as Wood, Coleman and Lexee Longwell play three increasingly angry and frustrated caged experimental chimps assigned to write “Hamlet.”

The two women in particular crouch and move swingy like chimps -- Coleman emitting the loud shreek of a chimp and Longwell the more chirplike sound of a chimp (and also playing with a banana and in general stealing the segment). 

Listen, too, to their first names -- all literary characters. 

And for sure listen to the playwright’s lines throughout -- its references to Shakespeare, “The Honeymooners,” Monty Python and so much more.

Wood is particularly superb in all three of his roles, with Trotsky our favorite. But, as noted, the entire cast is right on -- all in the timing for sure, as well as totally in character, keeping focus on the lines, speaking clearly, maintaining the driving pace.

Great summertime theater selection.