All in The Timing: Word Up!

Local Arts Reviews

All in The Timing: Word Up!

John Henry Faulk Living Theatre,

through February 26

Running Time: 2 hrs

When a scantily clad Ronit Schlam walks onstage with a sign introducing, à la the WWF, Sure Thing, the first of David Ives' five clever one-acts in All in the Timing, you know you're in good hands. It's a touch of irreverence well-suited to this quick, witty collection and a signal that the Fabulous and Ridiculous Theatre aim to have fun with it. Sure enough, the low-budget troupe tackles Ives' word play and Richard Foreman-esque "Let's try that again please" maneuvers with their signature abundance of energy and superior interim music: They Might Be Giants, Bon Jovi, and game show themes.

This show finds the FART crew getting an upgrade in material and production values. Last fall's staging of Mike Albo's Sexotheque, a gently moralistic meditation on consumer life, played good-sportedly over the twilight din at Emo's. All in the Timing, co-directed by Ivan Klousia and AnnaCatherine Rutledge, provides a more sophisticated, established script and a decidedly more comfortable venue in the Faulk, with lots of help from Andrew Laine's and Valerie Layne's appealing, efficient sets.

Sure Thing depicts a cafe meeting between a woman (Olive Jackson) and a man (Jeremy Chernick) trying to join her -- with many variations on their interaction. A bell signals restart after restart: "Where are you from?" "Pittsburgh." Ding! "Cleveland." Ding! "Westchester ... " Their eventual connection is inevitable, but only after they've been through every mood, tried every line, and finally gotten it right.

Mere Mortals cartoonishly portrays a construction workers' revelatory lunch break. With terrifically bad New Jersey accents, Chernick, Brandon Crow, and Jeff Long appear to be having a ridiculously good time feigning balance on a beam high over the city. On opening night, when one accidentally dropped his newspaper, the ad lib "Heads up!" drew cheers.

In a linguistic vein, the Klousia-directed Universal Language introduces an Esperanto-esque invented language called "Unamunda." "Unamunda aft da melodeea looniversahl," and in it English is "John Cleese" and "How are you?" is "Harvard U.?" Acted to death by Jeff Long and Katie Brock, the scene is presented almost entirely in Unamunda, which the audience understands eerily well by the end of the piece.

But Philip Glass Buys a Loaf of Bread, directed expertly by Rutledge, is arguably the most ingenious of the lot. A single exchange between Philip Glass, a baker, and two women in his shop is endlessly reworked in an affectionate parody of the composer's signature style. Slow and fast, in rounds, backward and forward, in every possible mood and rhythm, the quartet reenacts, unenacts, and deconstructs the event. At one point, the baker cowers, repeating the line "I need bread"; at another, the four slide around on the ground; later, they stand stock still breathing out "Pfffffft."

Opening night saw a few line gaffes, but it was a miracle things ran as smoothly as they did, what with the actors -- particularly the very busy Chernick -- playing so many characters in such quick succession. When five people came out to take their bows, a murmur rose: Weren't there closer to a dozen actors?

Still, an exceptional match-up between the character of the playwright and that of the theatre company, All in the Timing is fun and clever, the staging cozy in its small scale. This show runs through February, then we get to see what Fabulous and Ridiculous Theatre (I simply cannot write FART again) does with its next undertaking: another, very different, time-titled show, A Clockwork Orange.

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