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Arts & Culture

Bob Goepfert Reviews "Time Flies And Other Comedies" At Barrington Stage

David Ives is probably the smartest contemporary playwright working in theater.  For certain, it’s true about his short plays, which run about 10-minutes each.  For those he is a master.

If you need proof, experience his work “Time Flies and Other Comedies,” which consists of six one act plays and is currently at Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, Mass. through July 27.   It’s certain to keep a smile on your face.

The short plays range from amusing to funny; thoughtful to provocative; “how did he ever think of that?” to “this is really weak”. 

But more important than the value of individual plays is the pure theatrical tone of the evening.   

Despite the aforementioned weak play, “The Murder at Twicknam Vicarage,” which is merely a silly spoof of British mysteries, this is an evening of original thought. 

The production takes only two hours, with an intermission, so it’s unreasonable to expect profound insights from every level play.   However, most of the work does have a resonance that makes you think a little deeper.

Ironically, the most fascinating segment is “Enigma Variation,” a complex look at the possible different dimensions of existence by using two sets of doppelgängers.   Brilliantly staged by director Tracy Brigden, it is thought-provoking and artfully performed. The precise acting from the cast is dazzling.

Yet, it’s so smart, so complicated and complex - it’s difficult to laugh at the characters.   

Fortunately, the other plays are almost as smart without being intimidating.   

And they are time tested.   The six plays in  “Time Flies....” might be thought of as “the best of ...” as the included  plays are a collection from several works produced under different titles.

For instance “The Philadelphia” and  “Variations on the Death of Trotsky” were in “All in the Timing” a work that introduced Ives’ genius to the public more than 20 years ago.

“The Philadelphia” is about a man trapped in a universe in which he gets the opposite of everything for which he asks.   How he learns to speak in code to get what he wants is witty fun.   

“Trotsky” shows the Russian revolutionary leader,  who has a mountain climber’s pick “smashed” in his head.  In a series of scenes Trotsky hallucinates as he tries to make sense of his murder.  The gruesome premise offers a lot of silly laughter and the end offers a poignant charm.

The title work,  a play about a pair of May bugs who learn they have a life expectancy of only 24 hours is both funny, charming and surprisingly optimistic.

The opening of the second act, “Life Signs,” is another winner.   It has to do with a stern, staid, proper mother who returns from the dead to reveal many of her ribald experiences to her shocked son and his wife.   It’s the deathbed scene from hell.

Director Brigden marvelously adds visual humor to each play and the wonderful cast of five excels in making Ives’ elevated language seem common.   It’s quite a feat.

Leaving the production of “Time Flies” you are grateful for a couple of hours of relaxing fun. Strangely though, the simple stories stay in your mind and a diversion becomes something about which you think and discuss.   

That’s the mark of good theater.

“Time Flies and Other Comedies” at Barrington Stage Company, Pittsfield, Mass.   through July 27.   For tickets and schedule information call 413-236-8888 or BarringtonStageCo.org

Bob Goepfert is theater reviewer for the Troy Record.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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