Haddonfield Plays and Players’ ALL IN THE TIMING: a “Sure Thing”

by Jack Shaw

It’s not often that comedies contain the degree of intelligence and wit found in David Ives’ ALL IN THE TIMING. I like old romantic or situational comedies as much as the next guy, but this is truly a different theatre experience, and one worth having.

(rear left to right) Ashley White, Derrick Levine , (front left to right) David Nikithser and Amanda Frederick in a scene from Haddonfield Plays and Players' ALL IN THE TIMING.

With the variety of several short acts, all quite different from one another, it’s not likely to leave anyone in the audience wanting. HPP’s production doesn’t lack the comedic talent or timing, but as one might expect with a handful of separate “productions” some are more dynamic or appealing than others. Overall, I had a great time and enjoyed the show.

The production is quite often funny in an adult-thinking kind of way, interesting as a psychological or anthropological study of human behavior, unusual in its theatrical approach and intellectual in content. There’s some language, concepts and sexual references, so I wouldn’t bring the kids, but the show makes for a satisfying evening of theatre–that is, unless you’re looking for Neil Simon.

This is not Simon – Ives is different. This series of one-act plays collected together and produced as ALL IN THE TIMING makes us look at ourselves in a number of different ways–sometimes, “it’s all in the timing” and the truth is out. The “could have” or “would have” happened, or what really happened. Or not. Who knows?

Ives wrote these plays to explore the perpetual mysteries of intelligent life on this planet, and pokes fun at us for being human.We see ourselves one way and others see us in another way. To Ives, life is a series of experiences we often create for ourselves by thinking too much of ourselves and not reacting honestly with one another; on the surface we play it real enough, but underneath we are fraudulent to be sure. The real question is–can the HPP cast perform it consistently for seven short one-act plays?

By the way, HPP makes ALL IN THE TIMING a two-act play for practical purposes, although each scene is technically a short, one-act play.

Director Toni Thompson’s The Sure Thing opens Act I with a rapid fire scene that sizzles with comedy, setting the stage for what should follow. Kim Micale is adorable as “Betty”–in all her moods. David Nikithser as “Bill,” a regular guy was either the perfect stooge or “dance” partner as the scene changes in myriad of how things “could” have happened.

Mere Mortals, directed by Preston Brooks, showed me that there were to be different rhythms in the show. While the performance here was not perfectly smooth all the time, the fine performances of John Hughes, Alfie Mannino and Dominick Ruggeriero made up for it. They pulled me in and held my attention.

Scott Ross and Gary Werner in a scene from ALL IN THE TIMING - playing at Haddonfield (NJ) Plays and Players through May 21.

Connor Twigg did a credible job directing English Made Simple. Lisa Croce as “the Announcer,” Francis Pedersen as “Jack,” and Jennifer Wirtz as “Jill” instructed us to say what we really mean; but to do so has humorous results. I’m sure there is some deeper meaning. Twigg’s blocking and timing were impressive, but so was the honest comedic acting of all the players. In many ways, this short act is closer to play’s opener, The Sure Thing, in the same style of comedy and timing.

Thus, ends the first “Act.” Then, Intermission and 50/50, a community theatre tradition.

The second “Act” began with Scott Partenheimer’s Words, Words, Words, characterized by three monkeys locked in a cell with a tire swing and three typewriters. The object is that even monkeys over time (an impossibly long time) could write Shakespeare’s Hamlet purely by chance. It’s a real theory. Unfortunately, in spite of good acting by all three “monkeys,” it didn’t do that much for me. A few chuckles, but no guffaws. And, maybe I wasn’t supposed to “guffaw” at any point. This short play wasn’t one of my favorites, although it might be someone else’s.

Although it was interesting and humorous at times, Seven Menus, directed by Ashley White, worked much the same way, lacking the energy of earlier short plays. A few of the quieter and less demonstrative actors may have unknowingly sucked out the energy. Ives wrote this piece like all the others–and the actors did a fine job, but the production was gradually losing the “sizzle” that had been established in Act I.

Director Michael Post got my attention again with his Variations of the Death of Trotsky, but it wasn’t because of Ives’ musings on political activists. Scott Partenheimer as “Trotsky” was amazing to watch as he bounced on table and floor several times. Jaime Geddes couldn’t have been cuter in her delightful portrayal of “Mrs. Trotsky.” Post’s “Ramon” was an interesting contrast as he played the laid back straight man, the calm assassin, to Trotsky’s obvious energetic physicality.

The last short play, directed by Juliann Pomykacz, The Philadelphia, brought back the energy with an absurdist explanation of days that we have when nothing goes our way–as if we’re living in another place, in another world. Scott Ross as “Al” Gary Werner as “Mark,” and Brandi White as the “Waitress” all gave strong performances to end the show with the high energy that began it.

Overall, HPP’s production of ALL IN THE TIMING started out strong and ended the same way, with many, many entertaining and interesting moments in between. Scene changes could have been smoother and less disruptive, but this was the preview. Give it time. It was a good show.

The playwright wrote a series of short acts that can stand alone and often do for high school and college students around the country. Despite slow moments in the second Act, the show is consistently entertaining, and it is entirely possible the cast will find more energy for opening night and beyond. I saw the preview with a nearly full house, and everyone seemed to enjoy it. Now, there may have been few befuddled looks, but I think it’s because of the playwright, not the production. Not all theatre art is for everyone’s taste; it is after all, art. And, theatre does push the boundaries of what we expect; it’s what we want it to do.

If you want something other than the usual romantic or situation comedy, this one’s for you. It’s certainly worth a look–as good theatre usually is.

by David Ives
May 5 – 21. 2011
Haddonfield Plays and Players
957 East Atlantic Ave
Haddonfield, NJ
(856) 429-8139

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