'Timing' is funny, but loses subtleties Theater review

September 25, 1997|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC

Everyman Theatre has opened its season with a show that's witty, bright and downright laugh-out-loud funny in places.

But its stripped-down production of "All in the Timing" doesn't really show this young professional theater company off to full advantage. That's largely because director Timmy Ray James' staging is so raucous and excessively physical, it glosses over some of the subtleties in these six clever, one-act plays by David Ives. Even Ted Doyle's lighting design, which illuminates an actor's face in alternating purple and green, is more garish than humorous.

The most effective of the six skits is also the most subdued (although it's the one with the purple- and green-faced actor). "Philip Glass Buys a Loaf of Bread" is a spoof of a mini-Glass opera. Its premise is that two women shopping in a bakery think they recognize the Baltimore-born composer, who is known for the repetitive patterns in his music. The dialogue then turns into an imitation of Glass' minimalist music, which the cast performs with highly amusing precision.

The script of "All in the Timing" contains a complete score for this piece, but mastering its intricacies isn't the only challenge for the production's four-person cast. Another sketch, "Universal Language," is performed almost entirely in gibberish, every syllable of which is in the script -- from "doppa du a diddly anda" to "Johncleese" (the word for English).

Like several of the other pieces, "Universal Language" is actually a rather tender romance. In this case, two stutterers (Jimi Kinstle and Brilane Bowman) find love and happiness and lose their speech impediments in the process. Some of the tenderness is lost, however, when Kinstle and Bowman break out into a dance of joy so frenzied, it sends them toppling onto the floor.

Similarly, in the showiest piece of the bunch, "Words, Words, Words," Kinstle, Jacqueline Underwood and Delaney Williams portray monkeys attempting to prove the notion that "three monkeys typing into infinity will sooner or later produce 'Hamlet.' " Everyman has changed the location of this experiment from Columbia University to Johns Hopkins, and folks from the Writing Seminars as well as the research labs will probably find it a hoot.

But while the actors are to be commended for their ability to munch bananas and peanuts in the shell in true monkey-fashion, some of the monkeys' other antics are far more graphic than necessary -- especially since the skit is presumably intended, at least in part, to suggest that humans are less evolved creatures than apes.

Two other playlets, "Sure Thing" and "Variations on the Death of Trotsky," feel like acting exercises. In each, a bell rings and a short scene is replayed with a different attitude or outcome. Repetition is clearly one of Ives' running themes and, as might be expected, it can get tedious. However, in "Sure Thing" -- about a woman who may, or may not, want to be picked up -- any tedium is relieved by the sheer joy of watching Underwood's skill at changing her emotions at the "ping" of the bell.

This versatile actress does yet another about-face in "The Philadelphia," in which she masters an impersonation of a Bawlamerese-spouting waitress, from her bouffant hairdo to her chewing gum, which she twirls on her finger in a grand flourish at the end of the sketch. In this piece, two friends meet at a diner and discover they're trapped in opposite states of mind. Kinstle's character is so mellow, nothing bothers him; he's "in a Los Angeles." But Delaney's poor sap is stuck "in a Philadelphia," where everything he wants produces the opposite outcome.

Everyman's production is by no means stuck in a Philadelphia, but it would benefit from adopting more of a laid-back Los Angeles and just letting Ives' good times roll.

'All in the Timing'

Where: Everyman Theatre, 1727 N. Charles St.

When: 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, 2: 30 p.m. Sundays; through Oct. 12

Tickets: $15

Call: 410-752-2208

Pub Date: 9/25/97

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