COMMENTARY: North Bay's Theatre Canadore presents David Ives' 'All in the Timing'
Commentary by Joe Szekeres, Chief Toronto Critic for On Stage Blog (www.onstageblog.com) and member of Canadian Theatre Critics' Association
Director: Rod Carley and Voice and Speech Coach: Tracey Halsey-Berti
Cast: Tessa Barton, Matty Board, Myah Dougan, Tim Squire, Cassie Wilson
It’s heartening to see young emerging talent not allow this worldwide pandemic to destroy their love of the ‘live’ performing arts.
Five young artists in their final third year at Theatre Canadore (Canadore College in North Bay) have pivoted online to present David Ives’ ‘All in the Timing’, a collection of one act plays written between 1987-1993. Seven one acts from this collection have been selected for this performance: ‘Sure Thing’; ‘Words, Words, Words’; ‘The Universal Language’; ‘The Philadelphia’; ‘English Made Simple’; ‘A Singular Kinda Guy’ and ‘Philip Glass Buys a Loaf of Bread’.
A bit of background first: the one important thing that binds and connects each of these one acts is Ives’ love of language and how he manipulates it in word play, and often creates an extremely surrealistic or existentialist look at life and meaning through relationships with one another. These almost thirty-year-old one acts are not easy ones to stage as the language in each at times becomes an importantly timed ‘punch and react’ while remaining truly in the moment as much as possible. A great deal of planning would be needed to ensure the actors ‘get’ playwright Ives’ use of language to tell stories that are sometimes bizarre, sometimes comical, sometimes tragic and sad, and sometimes tragi-comic.
Given the fact Covid has eliminated all possibility of seeing live work for however long it may be, a creatively innovative and pivoted approach is necessary to make these seven plays work. Author, artist, theatre instructor and director of this production, Rod Carley, took the proverbial bull by the horns to make this final performance work for these graduating students. The students respected protocol by wearing masks throughout the 80-minute performance, but I wasn’t bothered by the fact that I couldn’t see their entire face. For me, the wearing of masks for ‘All in the Timing’ adds another layer of understanding to the fact that during this time of Covid, human language can sometimes be stifled given particular social contexts.
And this filmed performance does work online. The scrim/screen at the back of the stage also helped to set each of the various scenes. I liked the sketches of each of the titles to introduce each one act.
Yes, it would have been nice to be able to enter a live space where we could see these artists move about, but this performance in the Canadore Broadcast Studio nicely worked as the camera allowed me at times to see not only the expression on the actor’s face, but also the minutely and exquisitely choreographed movement of the artists, especially in the last piece: ‘Philip Glass Buys a Loaf of Bread’.
Under Mr. Carley’s suited direction for these graduating students, I look forward to seeing the further work of these five promising artists. They favourably captured the minutely timed ‘punch and react’ of the dialogue in Ives’ plays while never crossing over into histrionics of the moment.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to be quick enough to write down which artist played which role, so I won’t be able to name the individual in the specific role. I must applaud the work of the two actors in ‘The Universal Language’ in having to learn the ‘new’ language of Unamunda. At times, the delightful vocabulary of Unamunda made no coherent sense, but other times there were direct sharp references to the television culture we know and laugh. I heard ‘Yabba dabba do’ at one point so I loved the reference to ‘The Flintstones’.
Watching this production took me back over thirty years when I began my teaching career as a Core French teacher in the Ontario school system, and I had to use many of the techniques the teacher used for her student to understand. Really nice work with these two artists.
I also liked the opening production ‘Sure Thing’. Yes, this one act did remind me of Bill Murray in ‘Groundhog Day’, but these two actors adeptly and accurately got the required necessary timing to be able to go back and try again in their getting to know one another. I loved the sound effects they made as the scene was set back momentarily and no, it didn’t get on my nerves. It brought a smile to my face each time I heard them.
As an English major for my undergraduate degree, I especially thought the comic timing of the three artists involved in ‘Words, Words, Words’ was solid. The juxtaposition of three famous authors: Kafka, Swift and Milton as monkeys typing away and commenting not only on selections of their own work but of other famous works was good. The masks they wear in this scene made me laugh out loud because they appropriately work. Again, I felt a smile cross my face when the three chimps had to ‘perform’ for the people who came to see them in the zoo.
Final Comments: A shout out to Canadore College for allowing us to see this performance for free.
To access the free performance, go to Theatre Canadore - Canadore College.
The rebroadcast of this production continues April 22 and 23 at 7:30 pm.
Sound Design and Technician: Joshua Bainbridge; Stage Manager: Matt Lishman; Costume Designer: Stephanie Kast