Sometimes, you just need to laugh.
Comedy is no stranger to the University of Alabama Department of Theatre and Dance, and certainly no stranger to Alpha Psi Omega, the theatre honors society. They put on Guerrilla several times throughout the year, often incorporating humorous aspects to the theme of the show. And UATD tends to put on at least a couple of comedies a year. However, this year, APO decided to get a little bit atypical with their fall show.
“All in the Timing” by David Ives is not actually a play. It is, rather, a series of nine skits, coming off like an episode of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.” Yet, there’s more to it than that. Ives doesn’t use the farcical style of Monty Python so much… drama and character still exist in many of the scenes, and each scene has a different voice. Some of the scenes, or really short one-act plays, share similar voices to one another, while others could’ve been written by someone completely different.
In what has to be the largest collaborative effort for a show APO has ever done, Tommy Walker directed the show, but had three other people assistant directing four of the plays. Twenty-one actors were cast in the show, some playing multiple roles. And the technical side… well, let’s say that a lot of people were involved in this show. And I think it worked out well.
The show is, admittedly, hard to describe. To put all nine plays into a single show and attempt to make them cohesive, Walker created a circus world, a carnival of sorts, where all the actors were visible backstage the entire time. Before the show and during the intermission, actors came out and acted as clowns, some showing some very impressive clown work. I think Nick Burroughs’ animal clown is going to live on in my mind forever.
As for the plays themselves, Ives has an affinity for completely altering the reality of the world. In “Sure Thing,” a man, Bill (Anthony Haselbauer), and a woman, Betty (Tara Lynn Steele), meet at a coffee shop. Their conversation goes down several possible paths, reset to the last branch of the option tree at the sound of a bell every time something goes wrong.
“A Singular Kinda Guy” was a well delivered monologue from Wen Powers (who got some of the more dramatic parts of the show) about a man who thinks of himself as a typewriter trapped in a world of word processors.
In “Foreplay, or the Art of the Fugue,” a man, Chuck, takes a woman on a date to a miniature golf course… three times. Yet simultaneously. And the three Chucks (Burroughs, Motel Foster and Eric Marable, Jr.) interact with their individual women – Amy (Alex Karr), Annie (Illiana Garcia) and Alma (Adelle Smith) – as well as each other on occasion. Sometimes they go through the same motions, other times things are entirely different… especially for the third Chuck’s date with Alma.
In “Phillip Glass Buys A Loaf of Bread,” we have what I’d like to call a David Lynch-directed comedy musical. A moment of time where two people that knew each other once is frozen, and the four actors on the scene (Michael Vine, Jessica May, Karina Simonis and Loui Clagett) become representations of fractions of sentences and thoughts, singing and moving around the stage in a strange, clockwork-like motion of frozen time, the representation of confused neurons firing off in your brain when you aren’t really sure what to say.
“The Philadelphia” uses a fantastic concept where cities represent outlooks and reactions to life, and people can be trapped in them unknowingly, and outside of the city itself. Mark (Haselbauer) rushes into the restaurant where his friend Al (Patrick Croce) sits, oddly content despite the horrible service and even more horrendous food offered by the waitress (Naomi Prentice) at the restaurant. Al explains to Mark about living in a city outside of a city and how in a Philadelphia, you can never get what you ask for.
“English Made Simple” breaks down the barrier of language, altering and reinterpreting it in several ways, moving in and out of time and space to talk about the truth behind the words. In the setting of a science experiment/language lesson run by Amber Gibson’s character, Jack (Burroughs) and Jill (May) have many different conversations through different mediums… even hand puppets.
The theme of death and life passing before your eyes over and again, much like the theme in “Philip Glass Buys A Loaf of Bread,” emerges in “Variations on the Death of Trotsky.” Leon Trotsky (Powers) is caught in the moment between the fatal blow to his head and his actual death, dying multiple times throughout the scene while his wife (Taylor Schafer) and the Spanish communist that killed him, Ramon (Garcia), interact with his constantly dying body.
“The Universal Language” toys again with the idea of language, and the idea of love (a common theme in nearly every piece), but instead breaks down the English language itself, setting up a pseudo-everything language that is wholly incomprehensible and yet strangely understandable. Dawn (Kiley Gipson) comes in hoping to learn this universal language to cure her lisp while Don (Croce) tries to teach her the language and confidence. A girl (Simonis) enters at the end of the play to solidify the partnership Dawn and Don have created together.
The final play, “Words, Words, Words,” takes a swing at art itself, taking on the proposed theory that a monkey typing for eternity could eventually churn out the complete works of Shakespeare. The three monkees – Swift (Jordan DeWitt), Milton (Drew Singleton) and Kafka (Brittany Steelhammer) – try to comprehend and reason out the purpose behind what they do for their scientist masters (tech booth cameos from Tyler Spindler and Keegan Butler).
With a LOT of people involved, this could have been a case of too many cooks in the kitchen. Frankly, some of the comedy hit some people better than others, but that’s how comedy works as a whole. There were some plays I enjoyed far more than others, but they were all solid and came together as a great show. Unfortunately, there are no more performances left of the show, but maybe some of the scenes will see repeats as Guerrilla acts. It might be worth it. I think Ives really has some interesting things to say, in retrospect… But even if you don’t want to think about it afterwards, there’s still the moment of laughter during.