ALL IN THE TIMING
My friend, Laura, and I recently saw All In the Timing, a program of six one-act plays. That’s the show’s official billing, but it’s actually scenes of around ten minutes each. And the half dozen of them are done in just ninety minutes, which is always a good thing.
As you may have noticed, I haven’t accepted invitations to shows in smaller theaters since the pandemic began over two and a half years ago, because unlike many other people who seem to think life is normal again, I know that Covid-19 is still around, and I don’t want to be in confined spaces with strangers. So why did I accept this one, you may ask? Because a couple of the vignettes star the hilarious-on-television Patrick Warburton. Mr. X and I were big fans of his late sitcom, Rules of Engagement, and Laura and I had recently met him at a pre-Emmys luncheon. (He was there with his son, who joins him in this presentation. More on junior later.) So seeing him work in person was of particular interest to us.
Although written by just one guy, David Ives, the half dozen scenes are all very different from each other, the diversity of which I totally applaud. (I’m talking diversity in his writing, not casting, which is all anyone seems to use that word for anymore.)
But I was not a fan of his apparent obsession with “service” bells. They are part of at least four of the scenes. (It may actually be all of them and I just blocked the other two out.) The bell usage may have something to do with the title, but neither Laura nor I got the connection. It worked in the first act, but it became enough already pretty quickly. (The note I wrote at the end of the third vignette was, “Why do they need someone to sit on the floor of the audience with the bell in two of the sections? It’s distracting. They should just ring it off stage. It’s not that important in those scenes.”)
That being said, the writing is all clever and the performances are good. But, somehow, I never laughed, although Laura, who enjoyed the show more than I did, chuckled from time to time, as did the rest of the audience. Laura said, “I liked that the show was made up of several storylines, so if I wasn’t into one, I didn’t have to invest the full ninety minutes into it.” And she did pretty much like them all.
The first scene, of a couple meeting at a bar or coffee shop or someplace like that, took me a second to get into, but by the end, I thought it was very cute.
The fourth segment, entitled The Universal Language, presented a conundrum for me. The poor actor, Mark Haan, had to speak in a made-up language the whole time, which I found really annoying on one hand, (the dominant one!,) while on the other I so admired that he had to not only memorize all that gibberish, but present it! And even though we would have no idea if he messed-up his lines, his scene partner, Tania Gonzalez, had to repeat some of it in rapid succession, so Mark had to stick to the scripted “words.” Crazy. Laura liked that one, but it just hurt my head.
No matter what, let’s face it, the attraction for everyone, I’m sure, is Patrick Warburton. Even in LA, it’s not every day that you get to see an accomplished actor, whom you probably know from series television, so very up-close. (The theatre has only three wrap-around rows. I liked that there are enough seats that you don’t need to be near others, even though a makeshift front row that night looked a tad too close to the actors at times.)
Patrick is his usual talented self in this show, but on the night we saw it, he was talking way too low, like he was still doing TV. That wonderful low-key delivery of his works perfectly in that medium, but I feel he needs just a bit more volume and energy in a stage production, even in an intimate arena.
The great news is that he’s passed his talent down to his son, Talon, who’s in a trio of the segments; he’s spot-on in all three of them. I’m surprised that he hasn’t gotten a series himself. (Maybe father and son can get one together.) Talon shone as Trotsky in the last scene, about the Russian’s assassination, which neither Laura nor I knew about in real life. (I was absent that day; I don’t know Laura’s excuse.) But she said she was glad to get “a history lesson” along with the entertainment.
She also could not stop lauding Melodie Shih, who was featured in two of the scenes, and held her own against the Warburton men.
I found the set-up of parts of the stage to be interesting; all the props are laid out on tables at the back. I actually enjoy seeing props, especially from smaller theatres, so I liked that presentation. And the projections on a big screen back there change for each scene. I loved all the featured artwork and animation, which was done by Ron Yavnielli.
One personal note on the second story: While the topic of alleged Lindberg baby kidnapper, Bruno Hauptmann, is never amusing to me, that rare reference, which they make in the second scene, always brings back a great memory for me. Very many years ago, after my first television acting job, which was with Lynn Redgrave, she invited me to a party at her house. And who did I meet there but my favorite actor, Anthony Hopkins! I was shocked, but recovered enough to tell him that I love his work. To my surprise, after he thanked me, he asked me what I had seen him in and loved! (This was before Silence of the Lambs.) And the very first thing that came into my mind was his portrayal of Bruno Hauptmann in The Lindbergh Kidnapping Case years earlier! He loved that I chose that one, which he had done before he was super-famous. So I thank All In the Timing for giving me the opportunity to remember that.
I hope it will bring something equally special to those of you who see the show during the next month.
All In the Timing running through November 20, 2022
7456 Melrose Ave.