'All in the Timing' is verbal fireworks

Playful notions of time, language and genius are at the heart of Next Stage Repertory's production

Playwright David Ives examines language, intention and life's constant and often hilarious miscommunications in "All in the Timing," a collection of six one-act plays seamlessly produced by the Next Stage Repertory Company.

"All in the Timing" opened Thursday for a one-weekend run at the Craterian Theater in Medford.

If you go

What: Next Stage Repertory Company's "All in the Timing"

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Jan. 4-5

Where: Craterian Theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford

Tickets: $12

Call: 541-779-3000 or see www.craterian.org

This is lovely, well-written, sophisticated material. Director Gwen Overland and the repertory company of Presila Quinby, Doug Warner, Rose Passione, Andrea Hochkeppel, Justin Cowan and Adam Cuppy impeccably handle the verbal fireworks and the requisite precision timing to make all the wordplay work.

In "Sure Thing," a man and a woman meet in a café and hesitantly try to connect. Each time their introductory conversations hit a verbal gaffe, a bell goes off and they get to try again. The things that should or should not be said, the gestures that should or should not be made, are retried until the chemistry clicks.

"Words, Words, Words" takes the adage that three monkeys typing into infinity will sooner or later produce "Hamlet" to its own absurd conclusion. Here we have three chimpanzees locked in a cage with three manual typewriters. As they produce the required number of daily pages for their keeper, they discuss, in existential terms sprinkled with erudite literary references, interspersed with appropriate (or inappropriate) monkey gestures, why they are locked in this cage and what they can do to get out.

In "The Universal Language," Dawn, a woman with a stutter, desperate for a new way to communicate, wanders into a school advertising Unamunda, a language to bring all the world together. It is a con, of course, and even the teacher, Don, isn't very good at it. (In Unamunda, "arf" means "is," "wharf" means "was" and "long wharf" means "was before." "Velcro" means "you're welcome.") But as Dawn and Don stumble through the beginnings of language study — and as Dawn improvises her own Unamunda vocabulary — a genuine, heartfelt exchange develops between them. They are no longer constrained by real words and exact dialogue.

"The Philadelphia" is what happens when you wake up and find that you can't get anything you ask for. The taxi won't take you to 56th Street, offering Newark instead. The newsstand is out of the Daily News and the New York Times. The Jewish deli does not offer pastrami. As one of the characters says, you are in "a Philadelphia."

In "Variations on the Death of Trotsky," the exiled Bolshevik — with a climbing ax buried in this head — lives out assorted scenarios of his last day, what might have happened and what he could have done differently. A sketch that starts out with a weirdly absurdist premise becomes a touching fugue on reality and mortality.

The final sketch, "Foreplay," offers simultaneous scenarios of Chuck, a not-so-subtle seducer, taking three different dates to play miniature golf. The first, young Chuck, has a wide-eyed, credulous partner. The second, slightly older Chuck, has a more suspicious lady. And the third, world-weary Chuck, winds up with a date who bests him at both innuendo and golf. All of these sketches are performed on a minimalist stage set designed by Doug Warner with segments of clocks in bright day-glow colors. The repertory cast is seated onstage on low cushioned boxes, to appear and disappear as needed. Sound design, including some wonderfully evocative old vocal recordings, is by Mark Johnson.

Note: Playwright Ives is a product of New York and some of the language here is more profane than we usually hear on Rogue Valley stages.

"All in the Timing" plays at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Jan. 4-5, at the Craterian, 23 S. Central Ave. Tickets are $12 and can be purchased through the Craterian box office, 16 S. Bartlett St., Medford; by phone at 541-779-3000; or online at www.craterian.org.

Roberta Kent is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her at rbkent@mind.net.

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