Thursday through Saturday, Jan. 3-5 — David Ives' explores facets of time and communication with "All in the Timing," his collection of comedic one-act plays.

David Ives' explores facets of time and communication with "All in the Timing," his collection of comedic one-act plays.

"He's brilliant," says Gwen Overland, who directs Next Stage Repertory's production of Ives' series.

"The fact that we're here, having this conversation three hours before the world is supposed to end is truly what David Ives would consider fodder for a comedy sketch," she says during a telephone interview on Friday, Dec. 21, the day the Mayan calendar ended.

Ives has written about 14 comedy sketches. First published in 1994 by Dramatists Play Service, "All in the Timing" is a collection of six: "Sure Thing," "Words, Words, Words," "Philadelphia," "Variations on the Death of Trotsky," "The Universal Language" and "Philip Buys a Loaf of Bread."

"We took away 'Philip Glass' because we thought it wouldn't work for a Medford audience," Overland says.

The sketch is a musical parody of minimalist composer Philip Glass. Two women, Glass and a baker rap their way through a spoof of the self-importance of post-modernist performance art.

"We wanted a sketch that has all six actors of the cast in it," she says. "So we chose 'Foreplay.' "

"Foreplay" is set at a miniature golf course. The main character, Chuck, appears simultaneously as a youth, young adult and middle-aged man — on three separate first dates.

"He makes an effort to communicate with and attract each of the girls," Overland says. "The scenarios end differently, relative to Chuck's character.

"It's a perfect example of Ives' genius at playing with time. He constitutes and obliterates it. Establishes it, and then pares it down. He gives the pieces timelessness and currency at the same time."

Next Stage Repertory will present performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Jan.3-5, at the Craterian Theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford. Tickets cost $12 and are available at the Craterian box office, 16 S. Bartlett Ave., online at or by calling 541-779-3000.

The six one-acts in Ives' collection all have the playwright's sense of timing and wordplay.

"The first time you see the plays, you don't realize all of the philosophy, history, politics, literary illusions, comedy and drama held in the 10- to 15-minute sketches," Overland says. "I've discovered that words either connect or repel us from other people. And, ultimately, there's a third thing. It's some mysterious thing that the character Don mentions in 'The Universal Language' as the hand of destiny."

Ives' exploration of destiny is playful in "Variations on the Death of Trotsky," in which revolutionary Leon Trotsky dies eight times from an axe wound to the head.

"We know Trotsky dies because there's an axe in his head when the skit opens," Overland says. "But what Ives is exploring, in comic fashion, are those moments of connection between Trotsky and his wife and his assassin between the time he is stricken and when he dies.

"Thank God Ives is playful or he'd be dangerous. It's the playfulness that the actors and I are approaching in our interpretation. As a result, we've found a connection as an ensemble. It's as if we were meant to be together through the hand of destiny for this production — in spite of the world ending today."