Dorset proves laughs are "All in the Timing."

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DORSET - Dorset Theatre Festival has offered up some great shows this summer, but its current run of the 20th anniversary revival of David Ives' classic comedy "All in the Timing" is the first time this summer I jumped to my feet at the closing curtain.

That's not only a testament to the peerless acting of the cast, but also to the enduring quality of Ives' fascination with rapid-fire comic dialogue, and existential ruminations of life taken to such extremes that they leave the realm of the sublime, and enter the ridiculous.

It also continues the hot streak of DTF director extraordinaire Jenn Thompson, who delivered such recent hits as "Barefoot in the Park," Boeing, Boeing," and "Noises Off." Clearly, this serious professional knows plenty about laughter.

"All in the Timing," is a series of a half-dozen one-act skits, some more serious than others, but all very, very funny. The subjects:

"Sure Thing," where man and woman meet in a café and go back and forth on replays of typical first meetings until they hit upon the perfect lines - finally.

"Words, Words, Words," where three chimps named for literati - Swift, Kafka, and Milton - are part of an experiment to see if eventually one of them will produce "Hamlet" on a typewriter.

"The Universal Language," where a con man sets up a course for learning a faux universal language in order to swindle students out of tuition, but then a stuttering girl wanders into his classroom and changes everything.

"Mere Mortals," where three construction workers having lunch on a Manhattan skyscraper believe they are reincarnated versions of three famous historical figures.

"The Philadelphia," where the characters in a bar/restaurant all find themselves locked in an alternate reality where everything is opposite and defeatism is the order of the day.

"Variations on the Death of Trotsky," where the famous Communist revolutionary replays his death as read out of an encyclopedia, complete with hatchet in head and a Spanish gardener.

The three players, Mark Alhadeff, Adam Harrington, and Kelly McAndrew excelled in a multitude of ways far too difficult to describe in this short space. Portrayals of particular note include Alhadeff's Trotsky, hatchet head and all, Harrington's Don, the swindling language teacher, and McAndrew's Kafka - the literate and philosophical chimpanzee.

Kevin Judge's set design was utilitarian and logistically effective. Costumes by David Toser were fun and creative personality takes on the many characters. Both these factors were enhanced by the open concept space, where all costume changes and prop transitions were done out in the open, in full view of the audience.

Michael Giannitti's lights and Jane Shaw's sound added immensely to the actors' impeccable sense of pace and delivery. The speed of this banter was reminiscent of classic silver screen comedies such as the 1940 Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell hit "His Girl Friday."

Ives wrote six original comedies between 1987 and 1993, and then over time scripted another eight from which swap out the originals to present fresh perspectives to audiences, or allow for the strength or limitation of a particular staging venue, or casting availability.

To this end, DTF interjected "Mere Mortals" as its one deviation from the original six.

And even though these skits were 20 years old, they still worked. While historical and literary references and allusions spiced up the actors' splendid repartee, you didn't need to know much to get an evening of laughs out of these comedies, and these actors.

Which, as regional audiences move past midsummer, is more than enough reason to go see this production, and be prepared to jump to your feet at its wrap, also.

"All in the Timing, Six One-Act Comedies" runs through Aug. 9 at Dorset Theatre Festival. For tickets and information call 802-867-2223 or visit www.dorsettheatrefestival.org.

Telly Halkias is an award-winning freelance journalist, and the Stages Names drama critic. E-mail: tchalkias@aol.com Twitter: @TellyHalkias


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