All in The Timing is a must-see this weekend

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Do U Theatre?” Is the tagline for Saint Louis University Theatre’s 2005-2006 season. If their first production is any indication for the season to come, then yes, I do theater.

            David Ives’ All in The Timing debuted this weekend, and despite dismal ticket sales, the opening shows went off like gangbusters.    

            All in The Timing is a playful series of six short sketches, each using a different comedic peg to illustrate the scene.

            In first sketch, “Sure Thing,” Bill (Kevin Boehm) approaches Betty (Paris McCarthy) in a cafe. The two meet and exchange pleasantries several times until the dialogue progresses and Betty allows Bill to sit at her table. A dinging bell resets the action when one of the characters says something that ends the conversation. Very Groundhog Day-esque.

            “What’s the book?” Bill asks. “The Sound and the Fury,” Betty responds. “Oh, Hemingway!” Bill gushes. Ding. Wrong. “What’s the book?” “The Sound and the Fury.” “Oh, Faulkner!” And so it goes.

            The spare set brought the focus in on the acting, which was quality given the difficult stop-start scripting.

            Boehm was excellent as Bill, but McCarthy’s affected stage voice was grating.

            The second sketch, “Words, Words, Words,” played on the theory that if you put three monkeys in a room equipped with typewriters, they will eventually produce Hamlet. And, if this is true, what would the monkeys talk about?

            The physical setting was the lab of Dr. Rosenbaum, with the three monkeys perched in front of typewriters.

            “Words” was definitely the standout sketch as far as physical comedy was concerned, the monkeys, Milton (Billy Kelly) Swift (Dylan Duke) and Kafka (Emily Piro) sat,  scratched and walked like the real thing.

            Swift was the verbose thinker of the monkeys, plotting to get rid of Dr. Rosenbaum and escape enslavement, while Milton advocated playing along, saying that they could all do worse for apes in captivity. The adorable Kafka just sat splay-legged eating bananas and looking charmingly consternated.

            The costuming, lacking in the other sketches, was definitely tops in “Words, Words, Words.” Overalls, suspenders and bulky cloth diapers made the actors look effectively simian.

            This sketch is not to be taken at face value the dialogue is actually complex and riddled with allusions and nearly imperceptible jokes.

            The most raucously hysterical sketch was “The Philadelphia,” a story about a New York man, Mark (Boehm) who wakes up one day to find out everything in his life is wrong. He can’t find aspirin at the drugstore, the newsstand is out of his daily paper and the cab driver won’t take him to his destination.

            Al (David Finn) interprets Mark’s situation as his being stuck in “a Philadelphia,” which turns out to be a metaphysical state in which every time you ask for something, your request will be met with a blank stare and the only way you can get things to go right is to use reverse psychology on the world.

            When Mark realizes he is indeed stuck in “a Philadelphia,” he mentions suicide, to which Al quips, “If you try to kill yourself in a Philadelphia, you’re only going to get hurt, babe!”

            Boehm’s undeniable comedic timing make him perfect for the rapid fire exchange with the nonsense Waitress (Julie Wollscheid), while Finn had the ideal swagger for the part of Al.

            “Variations on the Death of Trotsky,” the fourth sketch, opened with Trotsky (Dylan Duke) sitting at a desk, writing his intellectual Marxist theories, with a mountain climbing axe stuck in his frontal lobe.  Mrs. Trotsky (Emily Piro) enters, telling her husband that she read in the 2005 encyclopedia that Leon Trotsky was killed that day by a Spanish communist posing as their gardener, Ramon (Billy Kelly).

            At the end of each mini-scene, Trotsky dies abruptly. The main points of the dialogue are reworked in each scene in a definitely hilarious, farcical manner. The projections, which tell the audience the title of each sketch and serve as a backdrop for each were especially effectual, punctuating and keeping record each variation.

            “Universal Language” is the silliest, hardest to follow of all the sketches.  Unsuspecting Dawn (Tina Bruna) goes to learn Unamunda, the “universal language,” taught by Don (David Finn). The language is a concoction of Spanish, Latin, French, Italian and German, with many nonsensical words and names mixed in.

            The dialogue must have been near impossible to memorize, as its just barely decipherable gobbledygook. The actors did an excellent job delivering the lines, though it went on a bit too long.

            The final sketch, “Philip Glass Buys a Loaf of Bread” was the perfect finale. I wish I could explain what goes on in the musical vignette but it would be pointless to try to do it justice. Boehm even looked like the contemporary American composer himself.

            There were not flaws in the lighting or the sets, and the paucity of props didn’t detract from the antics onstage and the one hour and 15 minute show wasn’t too long or short.

            Even if U don’t theatre, you should All In The Timing.