Three monkeys in a cage with typewriters. Given an infinite timeline, would they write Shakespeare’s masterpiece Hamlet or just defecate on a pack of cigarettes in protest of their unethical incarceration? These are a few questions addressed in The Adobe Theatre‘s production of All in the Timing, a collection of seven one-acts by David Ives, where things get comedic, tragic and a little wacky.The evening opens with the nostalgic “Long Ago and Faraway,” about Gus (Matt Heath) and Laura (Jennifer M. Lloyd), a married couple packing up to leave their cramped Manhattan apartment. Tensions rise as the husband and wife clash over disparate emotional connections with their home and each other. “Variations on the Death of Trotsky” depicts eight scenarios of communist revolutionary Leon Trotsky’s (played Christopher Gonzales) demise. The scene opens a day after Trotsky’s Mexican gardener, Ramon Mercader (Heath), smashes a mountain climber’s ax into the back of Trotsky’s skull. Trotsky is unaware of his predicament until his wife (played by Adrienne Cox) reads him an article from the future, detailing the circumstances of his death. “ Words, Words, Words” explores the hypothesis that three monkeys with typewriters (Amy Baklini, Gonzales and Chadwick) will produce Shakespeare’s Hamlet . A deluge of comedy ensues as they examine the existential crisis inherent in their predicament. The performers demonstrate tremendous physical commitment to their simian roles, providing amusing contrast to their deeply philosophical dialogue. “ Philip Glass Buys a Loaf of Bread” takes the audience on an aural deconstruction in the style of modern minimalist composer Philip Glass (Gonzales) who encounters a former lover at a bakery. The Adobe production’s ensemble launches into a flawlessly executed chorus, musing on the life that could have been. “ Green Hill” tells the wistful journey of one man (Chadwick) who leaves his lover (Lloyd) in search of the perfect green hill of his imagination. Chadwick gives an enduring portrayal of ambition’s effect on the human ability to experience happiness. “The Mystery at Twicknam Vicarage” is a parody of stuffy British murder mysteries, replete with an inept Scotland Yard detective (Gonzales), sex-crazed partygoers and the body of Jeremy Thumpington-Fffienes (Heath), who comes back to life to clear some things up. And possibly have an orgy.The show closes with “Sure Thing,” perhaps Ives’ most-performed one-act. It features the first meeting in a café between Bill (Heath) and Betty (Lloyd). Bill stumbles through the gamut of bad pickup lines and awkward social obstacles only to be stopped by a bell (a signature Ives convention) after each faux pas to repeat the scene anew. The two characters eventually connect, but is for love or just the absence of conflict?Each act leaves questions about human exsistence hanging in the air like ripe fruit for the audience to digest. Surprisingly, the presiding tone of the show is not glum. Ives seems to suggest through the comedic structure of his work that perhaps laughter is the answer to life’s most serious questions. It certainly makes the despair of the unknown palatable. With minimal props and a few boxes for a set, Director Zane Barker and his cast do a solid job of creating the absurdly entertaining world of David Ives. Unfortunately, the pace of the show often lags, keeping the needed comedic tension from building. This void denies the audience cathartic laughter and creates a somber tone amid otherwise humorously written pieces. Whether this was a conscious choice by the director or just a slow night, many of the jokes were lost. Comedy is truly in the timing.
All in the Timing, a collection of seven one-acts by David Ives, directed by Zane Barker, runs through Sunday, Nov. 16, at The Adobe Theatre (9813 Fourth Street NW, 898-9222) with performances Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m.. Tickets are $12 general, $10 seniors and students.