The Aux Dog Theatre, if no longer in its infancy, is still in its toddlerdom. It’s a young theater, and in the producer’s note to the 2011 season, Eli Browning admits that the space has struggled to stay open during its formative years.
Browning and four others began working on opening a company in 2005. To christen it, as an inaugural show they chose All in the Timing, a collection of short plays by David Ives. Browning eventually opened Aux Dog in 2007, but by then the other company members were exhausted and finished with the project. And so Browning tended to his shiny new theater space without a company or board of directors to support it. Aux Dog hosted any show it could find simply to stay in business. This, of course, has landed mixed results.
All in the Timing is a perfect representative for the state of Aux Dog. It revels in possibility and frolics in relationships and wordplay. It’s heartfelt and humble.
But Browning had a bit of luck last year. In 2010, he was able to bring on an eight-member board of directors. The sense of renewal and second chances is palpable in Aux Dog’s fifth season, which is titled, appropriately, Life and Chances. To kick off the season, Browning has chosen a redux of All in the Timing. The results bode well. Though the six short stories still feel undeniably green, they are at the same time bold and funny and fantastically acted in parts.
All in the Timing, by David Ives, is a relatively new work, with its original six shorts published in 1994. Since then, the anthology has grown to include 14 plays. Ives also released Time Flies and Other Short Plays in 2001. The six brief pieces performed at Aux Dog are plucked from both collections.
In “Mere Mortals,” a trio of construction workers contemplates the averageness of their lives over lunch on a steel beam. “Mystery at Twicknam Vicarage” is a whodunit exercise in absurdity, in which a man who performs adultery with everyone and everything in sight, including the couch, turns up dead in classic Clue fashion. “Time Flies,” perhaps my favorite story, follows two mayflies as they discover the terrible truth of their brief-lived existence. “Speed-the-Play” pokes fun at David Mamet along with American theater as nine actors ferociously parody a rapid-fire succession of plays. We find two seemingly Roman men on the cusp of language in “Babel’s in Arms,” in which they’re instructed to build a tower to meet God. And in “Variations on the Death of Trotsky,” we watch the revolutionary political theorist live his last day over and over with an ax in his head.
The acting runs the gamut. There are a couple of members who shriek more than exclaim and grate the nerves, and then there are actors who demonstrate an impressive hold on their characters. David Wolf, for instance, plays a construction worker from New Jersey who thinks he’s the long-lost Lindbergh baby. He also portrays British naturalist David Attenborough, and is utterly convincing and undeniably funny in both roles. Justino Brokaw takes on several parts, from a murder suspect with verbal affectations to a man trying to get out of building the Tower of Babel, and delivers them all with entertaining ease. Brennan Foster is fantastic as the forgetful Trotsky, and Aaron DeYoung is a great comedic performer all around.
The stage direction between shorts is strange, with translucent curtains revealing all scene changes while an analog clock is projected onto the drapes. But it all adds an air of guerilla-style wackiness that’s present in the entire evening, so it should stay put.
All in the Timing is a perfect representative for the state of Aux Dog. It revels in possibility and frolics in relationships and wordplay. It’s heartfelt and humble. And it’s a great little show to ring in both Aux Dog’s new season and what will hopefully be an exciting new era.