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By RAVEN SNOOK
They say that so much of comedy is in the timing, but really, it's in the relationships, too. Take David Ives' All in the Timing, an evening of witty one-acts currently enjoying its first major New York City revival at Primary Stages at 59E59. A surprise Off-Broadway hit when the theatre company originally produced it 20 years ago, the show quickly became a regional staple. In fact, back in the '90s, Tony Award-winning director John Rando (best known for his work on Urinetown and other Broadway musicals), cut his teeth helming All in the Timing out of town---four different times.
It was during one of these productions that Rando and Ives struck up what's turned out to be a fruitful and funny friendship. "We were introduced by our mutual agent," Rando says. "David was looking for a director for a new play he had written, so he came to see the show at Syracuse Stage and we really hit it off. That's how we started working together."
Over the past two decades, Rando and Ives have collaborated numerous times, notably on Off-Broadway comedies like Polish Joke, the infamous Broadway flop Dance of the Vampires, and several Encores! musical concert stagings at City Center. Rando's history with Ives made him the obvious choice to helm the current incarnation of All in the Timing.
"My relationship with David was the start of a real connection to a major writer," remembers Rando. "So when Primary Stages called me [about the current revival], I said, 'Yes,' without hesitation. I did All in the Timing in Syracuse, Buffalo, LA's Geffen Playhouse, and San Diego's Old Globe over the course of two years, but that was in the '90s. It's just really great to be back working on these plays again."
While Ives has made slight tweaks to the material---Rando calls them "textural flavoring"---the six shorts haven't changed much from a playwriting perspective. That's largely because they didn't need to be updated: Instead of trafficking in topical or timely humor, they explore the complex and often absurd nature of human relationships via surreal social satire and clever wordplay.
In one short, for instance, two lonely souls fall in love in the bogus universal language of Unamunda, and in another, Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky analyzes the circumstances surrounding his death… with a mountain-climber's axe sticking out of his head.
Yet even thought the words are the same, Rando makes it clear that this is a distinct production. "There is a considerable newness in terms of how the show looks and what this particular cast brings to it," he says. One big addition: A fifth character in the minimalist art send-up "Philip Glass Buys a Loaf of Bread." "In one of the regional productions I directed, I came up with this idea to create the Über Baker, this enormous baker that gives birth to these loaves of bread. The first time David saw it he was convulsing with laughter. So I imported that particular moment."
Rando isn't the only one with a long-standing relationship with Ives. Many of the cast members also have experience with his work: Jenn Harris was in New Jerusalem at Classic Stage Company, Carson Elrod was in a few of Ives' adaptations of classical French plays at Shakespeare Theater Company in D.C., and Liv Rooth understudied Tony winner Nina Arianda in Venus in Fur on Broadway. "That's really important, having actors who know how to deal with this language," says Rando. "The language is so precise and takes a special kind of discipline. Their history with his work is helpful in terms of putting together an evening like this."
Raven Snook regularly writes about theatre for Time Out New York and has contributed arts and entertainment articles to The Village Voice, the New York Post, TV Guide, and others.