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All in the Timing 

These promising shorts show glimpses of what the Actors Ensemble can do

Wednesday, Aug 1 2007
Playwright David Ives' much-celebrated and often-performed collection of quirky, comedic short plays gets a mixed production at Actors Ensemble of Berkeley. When it's firing on all cylinders, this show is a delight to behold. In "The Universal Language," Lia Fischer and Stanley Spenger are especially touching as a teacher and a student trying to connect through words all their own. Yet most of the six shorts lack the timing that is needed to keep Ives' wit bouncing along. "Speed-the-Play," four rapid-fire parodies of David Mamet plays, suffers both from a slack execution and from mistakenly assuming that the audience would be such Mamet fans as to get all the jokes. The Actors Ensemble's gamble to focus on Ives' more ambitious short plays rather than the crowd-pleasers doesn't pay off. This is a shame because the overall choice of play seems a perfect fit for the 50-year-old community theater, which prides itself on bringing solid entertainment to the people of the East Bay. But the moments when the play is working show glimpses of what a boon for their community this company could be.

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Molly Rhodes


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