St. John’s Players back on the stage

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Gordon Jones
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Company ends hiatus with multi-scene comedy

After a prolonged, non-performing hiatus, the St. John’s Players are currently back on the boards with “All in the Timing,” a set of two-handed and three-handed comic interludes scripted by American playwright David Ives.

The five-play sequence starts with two strangers, Bill and Betty, sharing a table in a café with no waitress — she poised and bright (Catharine Torraville), he gangly and gestural (Justin Sellars).

Their conversation is punctuated by a bell on the table. And they joyfully fall in love, even if they don’t get served.

The second skit features three monkeys dressed in red, jumping and hooting and typing on three typewriters, culminating in the opening words of “Hamlet.” Kody McGrath, Melissa Atkinson and Heather Phillipps are the ingenious monkey-imitators.

The third piece features a recalcitrant waitress (Liz Howell) and two men in a restaurant (Ian Campbell, Mike Vokey), one of whom affirms that he has fallen into a deep hole called “Philadelphia,” where he seems to get nothing that he wants. The waitress confides that she is in a “Cleveland.”

After the intermission, Leon Trotsky (Kody McGrath) and Mrs. Trotsky (Sarah Carter) calmly discuss the mountain-climbing axe that has been plunged into his head by his gardener (Justin Sellars). Trotsky’s wife helpfully shows him an encyclopedia entry specifying the date of his death.

The fifth and closing sketch, entitled “The Universal Language,” features a vibrant young woman (Heather Rumancik) who is learning an incomprehensible universal language called Unamunda, taught by a fraudster (Mike Vokey) who talks plausible gibberish. She is converted to the cause of a language that will unite the world.

All five of these short sketches are tackled by a young and enthusiastic cast, who are not afraid to take risks and who evidently relish taking on Ives’s absurdism.

A receptive and amiable audience seemed to relish the pieces with them, although I must confess that I found myself unable to enter wholly into the spirit of the occasion, which was a tad more contrived and bizarre than I could swallow.

I may, of course, have been in a minority of one.

Produced by Louise Kearley and directed by Jim Healey, the revived St. John’s Players production of “All in the Timing” continues in the Barbara Barrett Theatre until Sunday, with the usual curtain time of 8 p.m. Including a 15-minute intermission, running-time is 100 minutes.

And it was good to see Barbara Barrett in the opening-night audience in the theatre named after her, where the St. John’s Players will perform again in March, with Neil Simon’s “The Good Doctor.”

Organizations: Barbara Barrett Theatre

Geographic location: Philadelphia, Cleveland

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