In one of the vignettes in David Ives' All in the Timing, a man complains to another man that all day he has been unable to get anything he wanted. He asked for a newspaper, and the newsstand didn't have it. He asked for a pastrami sandwich, and the deli wouldn't give him one. His cabbie wouldn't take him to 56th Street.
The other man explains that he is momentarily trapped in a "Philadelphia."
"In a `Philadelphia,' no matter what you ask for, you can't get it," he says.
It happens to people all the time, he says, and not just with Philadelphia. In a "Los Angeles," for example, nothing bothers you. A "Cleveland" is the least pleasant of all.
This comedic vignette is one of six short plays that make up the clever All in the Timing, which opens tonight and runs through Sunday at the Imperial Theatre, 745 Broad St.
Each piece seems to have begun with Mr. Ives saying, "What if..." and led to the creation of an off-kilter reality.
Some of the one-acts go for conventional laughs, while others are witty riffs that go for a drier sort of amusement.
Maybe the most unusual among these one-act plays is Philip Glass Buys a Loaf of Bread, built around the modernist composer's visit to a bakery. A couple notices him buying the bread. They have routine exchanges, and then begin to repeat and sing their lines until they are in the middle of a full-blown, Glass-like musical. While the characters sing, a man walks across the stage in slow motion, carrying a large piece of glass.
Director Gene Muto mounted a production of All in the Timing in May at Augusta State University and is heading this version at the Imperial. Much of the same cast returns.
One of the funniest sketches takes its starting point from a historical oddity - the death of Leon Trotsky. Trotsky, the Communist leader, was assassinated but lived for a day with a mountain-climbing ax buried in his head. Variations on the Death of Trotsky imagines how Trotsky might have spent that day.
It's typical of Mr. Ives that he doesn't just have one idea on what Trotsky had to do or say. He runs through all the possibilities - the various motives of the assassin, what his wife has to say, Trotsky's lamentations on a future in which he is erased from Russian history books.
The end of each variation is signaled by the ringing of a bell, the kind hotels keep at the front desk. The bell motif shows up in another sketch as well. In Jimmy Stewart's It's a Wonderful Life, the ringing meant that an angel had just won his wings. In Mr. Ives' world, it's a chance to try a new idea.
Show informationOn stage
What: David Ives' All in the Timing
When: 8 tonight and Saturday night; 3 p.m. Sunday
Where: Imperial Theatre, 745 Broad St.
How much: $12 and $10. Discounts for students, senior citizens, military and groups.
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