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Trio of comedies prove that you gotta have timing

Oh you need timing, a tick-a tick-a tick-a tick-a, timing.

— Jimmy Jones, 1960

The three short, one-act comedies in "All in the Timing," by David Ives, take their cue from the title. While they get their juice from madcap wordplay and a slightly skewed take on everyday life, each playlet stands in some relationship to the arrow of time.

An Ashland Contemporary Theatre production, the collection played twice Saturday at the Ashland Community Center and will repeat there at 3 this afternoon. Performances are also set for 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Oct. 27 and 2 p.m. Oct. 28 at the Paschal-Tenuta Winery.

"Words, Words, Words" is a funny riff on the often repeated assertion that a group of monkeys pounding on typewriters long enough would produce the works of Shakespeare.

In "Mere Mortals," three hard-hat guys from New Jersey (or Joisey) reveal that they are in fact the Lindbergh baby, the son of Czar Nicholas II of Russia and the reincarnation of Marie Antoinette.

In "The Universal Language" a huckster gets more than he bargained for when he admits a naive woman to his fraudulent class in the language "Unamunda."

The original "All in the Timing" was a collection of six one acts that debuted about two decades ago and included "Words" and "Language." "Mere Mortals," an Ives short from a group of that name, has here been lumped with the other two by director Evalyn Hansen.

The Community Center is hampered by a flat floor, which creates sight-line snafus, but since it was set up for fewer than 50 viewers, that's a minor quibble. Lights and sound were adequate to their job, and the staging energetic and light, as befits the subject matter.

In "Mere Mortals," affable Charlie (Raymond Scully) lets slip that he is in fact the baby that was the subject of perhaps America's most infamous kidnapping, even though the timing doesn't add up. Young Frank (Justin Samuel Cowen) tops that by claiming to be the son of the murdered Czar Nicholas. So it's of course left to skeptical Joe, who has pooh-poohed the others, to reveal his identity.

"Words, Words, Words" takes us to the lab of a scientist who has devised an actual test of the old saw about monkeys and Shakespeare. Three chimps, Swift (Jesse Lawson), Kafka (Chloe Rosenthal) and Milton (Will Walker Cooper) bang away at typewriters with hands and feet as they thump their chests, scratch their sides, pound bananas and discuss favorite chimp subjects such as tire swings and masturbation.

Kafka shares her work: kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk.

"What's that," Milton asks, "Postmodernism?"

"The Universal Language" is sheer verbal silliness. Dawn (Maria Ciamaichelo), charmed by con man Don (Robert Brazeau), quickly picks up the rhythms of Don's phony language, and the two are soon swinging together as they speak a "language" we begin to understand. But is it really a new vocabulary, or is it the language of love?

"All in the Timing" flits by in about 90 minutes, which is just as well, as the jokes wouldn't stand for being drawn out.

If plays were wines served up in flights a la tasting rooms, "Hamlet," which Kafka does in fact begin to write, would be a noble Bordeaux. "Waiting for Gogot" would be pinot noir, and the shorties of "All in the Timing" are sips of white zinfindel.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's all in the timing.