All in the Timing Review – Words Are Funny Things

Taylor Behrens and Meadow Clare in "Sure Thing" from ALL IN THE TIMING - Photo by Chris Devlin
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The latest production at the Zephyr Theatre is clearly an homage to playwright/screenwriter/ novelist David Ives, best known for his comic one-act plays. In 1997, the New York Times deemed him “the maestro of the short form.” Ives’ short plays focus on language, wordplay, and an absurdist existential look at meaning in life, especially as it relates to romantic relationships. Ives’ most famous comic foray into theater is ALL IN THE TIMING, six one act plays – a piece which became the most performed play in the country in 1995-1996 after Shakespeare’s plays. ALL IN THE TIMING premiered in 1993 and was described at the time as “pure entertainment,” winning the Outer Critics Circle John Gassner Award for Playwriting. 

“Sure Thing” tells the tale of Bill (Taylor Behrens) and Betty (Meadow Clare) who meet for the first time in a café. A bell rings every time either one says the wrong thing – until finally they get it right and fall in love.

Mark Haan and Tania Gonzalez in “The Universal Language” from ALL IN THE TIMING – Photo by Maram Kamal

“The Universal Language” follows Dawn (Tania Gonzalez), who falls prey to a fraudulent language learning course specializing in Unamunda, a universal language closely resembling nonsense, until Don (Mark Haan), the founder of Unamunda, confesses as they fall in love. A Man (Bill Butts) hovers about.

Melodie Shih, Maram Kamal, and Meadow Clare in “Words Words Words” from ALL IN THE TIMING – Photo by Chris Devlin

“Words Words Words” is about the traditional three chimps who are tasked with writing “Hamlet;” but they persist in pointless banter, or do they? The production features Milton (Melodie Shih), Swift (Meadow Clare), and Kafka (Maram Kamal).

Melodie Shih, Patrick Warburton, and Talon Warburton in “The Philadelphia” from ALL IN THE TIMING – Photo by Chris Devlin

In “The Philadelphia,” Al (Patrick Warburton) enters a restaurant – only to find that he must ask for the opposite of what he wants if he hopes to have dinner. The play also features Mark (Talon Warburton) and the Waitress (Melodie Shih).

Bill Butts, Talon Warburton, and Patrick Warburton in “Mere Mortals” from ALL IN THE TIMING – Photo by Chris Devlin

“Mere Mortals” recounts the story of three construction workers, Joe (Bill Butts), Frank (Talon Warburton), and Charlie (Patrick Warburton), who share their alter egos. One is the Lindbergh baby. One is the son of Czar Nicholas of Russia. One is the reincarnated Marie Antoinette.

Maram Kamal, Mark Haan, and Talon Warburton in “Variations on the Death of Trotsky” from ALL IN THE TIMING – Photo by Chris Devlin

“Variations on the Death of Trotsky” finds Trotsky (Talon Warburton) dying over and over again – with a mountain climber’s axe protruding from his skull. When he locates the assassin Ramon (Mark Haan), masquerading as a gardener, things become very philosophical. Trotsky’s wife is played by Maram Kamal.

ALL IN THE TIMING is an interesting example of David Ives’ short and precise comic writing style. It is in the absurdist quality of the tales that his humor lies as he weaves the idiosyncratic use of language into the lives of his characters. Skillfully directed by Michael Yavnieli, ALL IN THE TIMING is just about perfect for today’s attention-challenged audience accustomed to quick comic bites between TV commercials. It is also a fascinating bit of theater history which will appeal to theater buffs. The nine actors in the six plays do a creditable job of demonstrating the strength of Ives’ “short and sweet” approach to theater comedy. The entire show lasts 86 minutes. Audiences Alert: Ives’ humor is subtle and sometimes even obscure. The existential nature of his situations may be an acquired taste – but a taste worth developing.

ALL IN THE TIMING runs through November 20, 2022, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 3 p.m. on Sundays. The Zephyr Theatre is located at 7456 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90046. Tickets are $35. For information and reservations, go online.


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