On Stage: Performing Arts at Our Oneonta Campuses by Rachel Frick Cardelle
‘All in the Timing’ Will Bend Your Mind, Get You Thinking
From November 8-12, you have the opportunity to see two very engaging, very different theatrical productions, one at SUNY Oneonta and the other at Hartwick College. No wonder Oneonta was just named #10 in the country for the most arts-vibrant communities of 2023 in the small-sized community category. Do yourself a favor and find time in your schedule to attend each. SUNY O’s “All in the Timing (reviewed here) because it will bend your mind and get you thinking while making you laugh. Hartwick College’s “Keely and Du” because it suggests that the deep, hostile divisions we currently seem to be experiencing in our world could be overcome if we work to see the humanity in those with whom we don’t agree. In this column, I will talk about the SUNY O show, and next week I’ll cover the Hartwick production. So let’s get down to it.
“To be serious about serious subjects is redundant… If I don’t laugh or see somebody fall in love, I’ve wasted my money.” These were two of the comments made by David Ives in a 1994 interview on “The Charlie Rose Show” about his débuting show, “All in the Timing,” which is the next theatrical production at SUNY O. Ives wrote a smorgasbord of 14 one-act plays for “All in the Timing,” and SUNY O’s production offers eight of them. (The original show had six, four of which are part of SUNY O’s show.) The acts are at times funny, silly, confusing, thought-provoking, and always engaging, as was the cast and crew when I got to interview them as a group.
There are two items that show up in every single act: a rose and Oskar. When I asked Oskar which act he found most intriguing, [Note: I acknowledge that this was an obnoxious question given that all his fellow actors were sitting right there waiting to hear if he chose an act they were in, so I officially apologize to him here.] he talked about “Universal Language,” as he thinks the concept and execution are really fun. Plus he said he’s a sucker for a cute love story. “Universal Language” covers the story of Don and Dawn, in which Don offers to teach Dawn Unamunda, a universal language. Throughout the act, Don speaks Unamunda and the incredible part is that sitting in the audience, I understood 80 percent of what Don said. Victoriana, who plays Don, told me they learned the part by first learning all of their lines and intonations in English (Ives wrote a translation for the actor in the script) and then relearning their lines in Unamunda with the same intonations. So, for example, early in the scene when Don tells Dawn “Squeegie la mezza” you know he’s apologizing for the mess in the room.
Other acts include “Mere Mortals,” where you will learn what it is construction workers are really discussing as they sit high up on the beams of the high-rise building eating lunch. As Brody (Frank in this act) told me, Ives called this act “Mere Mortals” as none of the construction workers believe they are mere mortals. Frankly, I’ll never look at construction workers the same.
In “Sure Thing,” Betty and Bill, who meet in a café, get to fix all those awkward mistakes so often made as two people get to know one another. Each time one of them sticks their foot in their mouth*, a bell dings and they start over again in an instant redo. (I WANT this feature in my life!) Seamus (Betty) felt it spoke to the need to go beyond superficiality and get to the deeper meaning, as by the end of the act Betty and Bill (played by Marissa) fall in love and live happily ever after. Or, at the very least, go to the movies together.
“English Made Simple” echoes “Sure Thing” with Oskar (who is the bell ringer in the latter) explaining the use of language between two people (Jack and Jill), who are potentially romantically interested in one another. In this act, a puppet master (Oskar) tries to control and manipulate human emotions. Ethan (Jack) talked about how Ives uses this set-up to illustrate how complex English is, and how deep language can be between two people.
“Long Ago and Far Away” confused the bejesus out of me if I’m being honest. I felt much better after discussing this with the actors, who seemed equally confused but far more comfortable with that confusion. Achim, the only non-student actor in the show, explained that there are three main characters in this act and it could be one or three stories at the same time, none of which contradicts each other.
“We don’t know if he (points to Alexander, who plays Gus) is me or not and we aren’t sure if she (points to Lindsey, who plays Laura, who introduces herself as Ruth) is even Ruth… it is the best of post-modern, you don’t even know if these three people are connected to each other!” Now, if you are confused by Achim’s quote and having fun trying to wrap your mind around it, you’re in just the right mood to see this act. Did I mention Achim is a philosophy faculty member?
“Words, Words, Words” takes the cake as the most adorable act. There are three monkeys, all named for famous men (Milton, Swift and Kafka), who are part of an experiment to see if you really do leave a monkey alone with a typewriter will the monkey eventually get around to producing Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” as posited by the Infinite Monkey Theorem. I won’t ruin it by telling you the outcome, except to say that I’m a little concerned that all the hours of my life I have spent writing have never even approached the level of Shakespeare’s “Cymbeline,” which routinely makes the “least liked/worst” lists of his works. And yet these three monkeys… well, never mind.
The monkey’s act is followed by a wonderful solo act (and the only one without Oskar) in which Mitch (played by Jason) shares their alternative identity with the audience. Jason reflected on how long ago this play was written, and yet so much of it takes on important meaning in today’s context. The same thing had occurred to me when I watched the show, although 1994 seems more recent to me than it does to Jason, who was probably born in the 2000s, rather than the 1960s.
There is one more act, “Philadelphia,” but we didn’t have time to talk about it, I don’t have space to write about it, and given how it reflects on that city I think I’ll leave it alone other than to say this act is hilarious. Unless you’re from Philadelphia, in which case I will try to wipe the grin off my face and stand with you in finding the image of Philly portrayed unfair.
In watching rehearsal and talking to the cast and crew, I was struck again by how much of the fun of theater is that the script is only the starting line. As Sarah (Jill, “English Made Simple”) put it, acting isn’t memorizing the lines—it’s all the things you do after that. The crew, too, gets in on this. Kara (assistant stage manager) shared how cool they think it is that in this production everyone has come together with their creativity to make the show work. Since at one rehearsal I had watched them discussing which piece of music would work for an act and the next thing I knew Tatum (also assistant stage manager) was tapped to provide one of their special talents to the scene—beat boxing—I had to agree with Kara. They are cool coming together with their creativity.
Not surprising given they are a group of artists being trained in one of the most arts-vibrant communities in the nation.
*On a side note, Kiara, the director of this show, is Italian. In a conversation we had, they shared that the saying in Italian isn’t “I stuck my foot in my mouth”—it is something along the lines of “I pooped outside the toilet.” Another reason learning other languages is so much fun.
You can watch “All in the Timing” in the Fine Arts Center’s Goodrich Theater on SUNY O’s campus November 9-11 at 7:30 p.m. or November 12 at 2 p.m. for $5.00 general admission, or free with a SUNY O student ID.
UP NEXT: “Keely and Du,” performed by Hartwick College students November 8-11.
Rachel Frick Cardelle covers performing arts at SUNY Oneonta and Hartwick College.