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THEATER REVIEW

A few bugs to work out in 'Flies'

August 11, 2003|Don Braunagel | Special to The Times

SAN DIEGO — To go for the easy one-liner: "Time Flies" is a misnomer.

In at least half of the six playlets that make up this collection by David Ives at the Old Globe, time crawls.

Ives specializes in one-acts, usually comedic. "All in the Timing," an earlier compilation from his repertoire, became a regional theater mainstay a few years back and received a 1996 Globe production. "Time Flies" won't come near that success unless it can shore up some weak spots.

That's not true of the eponymous opening segment. Clever and humorous, it depicts two mayflies coming home from a date and learning, from a TV science program, that they have a lifespan of one day, during which they have to meet, mate and produce offspring. The satire encompasses a lot of puns, verbal and visual (the couple's choices of background music include Gnat King Cole and the Crickets, which turns out to be a tiny band of insects) and a hilariously pressurized version of the dating/mating ritual. The female fly sums it up with "Foreplay segues into funeral."

The other first-act stories are less frenetic -- and less funny.

"Babel's in Arms" centers on two construction workers responsible for the "Century 1" building project the Tower of Babel and, as indicated by its title, spoofs the ongoing confusion over the pronunciation of Babel.

Wordplay also evokes laughs in a high priestess' blessing of the site ("Ohhhwowwwww") and the name of one laborer (Cannaphlit, misspelled in the program as "Cannaphilt"). But the workers' excessive reliance on the F-word, apparently Ives' commentary on construction-site language, often seems gratuitous.

Next is "The Mystery at Twicknam Vicarage," introduced with the "Masterpiece Theatre" theme music. It starts as a witty sendup of the English-manor-murder genre but degenerates into silliness, as in the revelation that the omnisexual victim copulated with various pieces of furniture.

In the second act, time really slows. The highlight is "Bolero," in which a couple gets more and more frantic after being awakened by mysterious sounds on the other side of their apartment wall, but it's sandwiched between two poky stories, one about a man who abandons his lady love to search the world for a utopian green hill, the other about two widowed church ladies preparing a funeral breakfast and being blessed by angels.

The five-member cast is versatile and generally on target with accents and attitudes. Mark Setlock is a standout, teamed nicely with Mia Barron as a mayfly and with Nancy Bell as a "Bolero" worrier. Matt August's direction, however, is too static for the Carter stage's in-the-round configuration.

The participant in "Time Flies" who seems to have had the most fun is costumer Holly Poe Durbin. Her designs especially enhance the mayfly and Babel sequences, and they're unerring throughout. David Ledsinger's serviceable set consists largely of a variously patterned wooden floor supporting boxes and compartments containing props. Chris Rynne's lighting sets the tone with a large projected clock face with revolving hands, and Paul Peterson supplies appropriate sounds.

The program for "Time Flies" is supplemented with an insert showing that the original sequence of playlets has been changed, indicating late-in-rehearsal uncertainty. Nonetheless, the production's shortcomings stem less from the order than from the material.

*

'Time Flies'

Where: Cassius Carter Centre Stage, Balboa Park, San Diego

When: Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 and 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 and 7 p.m. Ends Sept. 7.

Price: $19-$50

Contact: (619) 239-2255

Running Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes

David Atkins, Mia Barron, Nancy Bell, Jeffrey Brick, Mark Setlock...Company

Director Matt August. Set design David Ledsinger. Costumes Holly Poe Durbin. Lighting Chris Rynne. Sound Paul Peterson.

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