“All in the Timing,” the latest production by student theatre group The Opposite of People (TOOP), is a series of short plays that opens with three chimpanzees tasked with typing up “Hamlet,” written by David Ives. (I cannot in good conscience write this review without disclosing that I love “Hamlet,” and I must also admit to being an English major with more than a passing interest in theatre.)
As far as I was concerned, the show could have ended there, with the chimpanzees, and I would have been more than satisfied. Thank goodness it didn’t, though, because that first segment was only a portent of the experience to come. “All in the Timing” was a thoughtful, riveting, and hilarious experience—an excellent choice for TOOP and a pleasure for the audience.
Ives’ plays are packed with the sort of literary and historical references that make one feel that their education was truly worth it. Shakespeare, Milton, Faulkner, and—surprisingly enough—Trotsky are some of the famous folks invoked over the course of “All in the Timing.” It’s not every day you watch composer Philip Glass try to buy bread and suffer the pain associated with the memory of a past love. Although I imagine that these scenes are enjoyable and thought-provoking even if the references are missed, to understand them truly adds another dimension.
It would be ill-advised to try to present any vignette from “All in the Timing” as superior to any other, as they are all exquisitely produced and acted. Honestly, this production gave me hope. It was everything that theatre should be. I absolutely loved the particular way every scene was cast; each actor brought something different to all of their roles, truly defining the individual characters they portrayed. The talent of this troupe is incredible. Mannerisms and the execution of dialogue are flawless (or at least appear to be, which, in live theatre, is the important thing). Whether they be chimps or restaurant patrons, aspiring linguists or time-hopping manifestations of human anxiety, these TOOP actors imbue the stories they tell with such life that one cannot help but be swept up the stories—even the seemingly absurd. I was especially impressed by the thoroughness of the line memorization and the smooth flow of each conversation. These actors clearly put in the hours of rehearsal necessary to pull off a show so dependent upon precision of language and, yes, timing.
Of course, no show is perfect. Personally, I have a limited tolerance for topical references, especially those of the we-know-what-city-we’re-performing-in type. Yet, even if this production toed that fine line, I really didn’t mind. It was sincere, and at the end of the day (or night, or matinee), that sincerity is what keeps me coming back. While I wouldn’t say it was flawless, “All in the Timing” came pretty close.