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David Ives “Lives Of The Saints” At Duke Theatre, Friday, February 6th, 2015

cast

Standing: Cast members Carson Elrod, Liv Rooth, Rick Holmes, Kelly Hutchinson, and Arnie Burton. Seated: Playwright David Ives and director John Rando.

It’s been 20 plus years since playwrite David Ives’ seven one act plays”All In The Timing” with the simply brilliant “The Sure Thing” (one of the funniest one act plays you’ll ever see, where a couple meet for the first time and every time somebody says the wrong thing they hit reset and start all over again,) was first produced at Primary Stages. There is a variation on that called “Ancient History”, where a couple remember their break up from different perspectives.The years have been very kind to Ives, he has had quite a few hits, including his adaption of “Venus In Furs”, he is a prolific intelligent writer and a fine writer of dialogue.

So when news of a new play, also seven acters, “Lives Of The Saints” was announced, we expected some more time warped weirdness from the master humorist. And we got it. But the magic is missing.

Some of these plays go so wrong so fast it is really a little off putting. “The Engima Variations”  ” Zany hijinks as a pair of lookalikes named Bebe W.W. Doppel-gängler solve an identity crisis with the help of Dr. William W. Williams and his nurse Fifi, who may or may not be Aphrodite the Goddess of Love. Or is she?” sounds fun but starts strange and ends up hysterical. Worse, it doesn’t really have a reason for being, it is the definition of meaningless, there is no reason for it. “It’s All Good” is a Twilight Zone episode where a successful writer returns to Chicago and discovers himself as he would’ve been if he never left his hometown. A nice fantasy though nothing really comes of it. But if those two are good enough,and a mother who returns from the dead in “Life Signs” is even better, the other four are huge disappointments. The first three one acters are terrible, “Babel’s In Arm” about the building of the tower of babel one stone at a time, is “Waiting For Godot” as extended silliness, “Soap Opera” has some amusing puns on washing machines (a man falls in love with his) but is just too bizarre and “The Goodness Of Your Heart” puts goodness versus manners in a seriously flawed debate.

The staging is bright and enticing, the five actors are all excellent, all of them are absolutely first rate.Rick Holmes the tall one, Carson Elrod is like a young Ron Carey meets a young Michael Palin, Kelly Hutchinson makes as good a High Priestess as she does a Washing Machine Goddess or a housewife, Arnie Burton goes from goofy to uptight with ease, and Liv Booth handles a dead mother and a businesswoman with the same aplomb. Director John Rando is a pro but the plays the thing

But the bottom line is, these are, for the most part, not great plays. They don’t click the way they are meant to, they aren’t very funny (and sometimes they are meant to be) and he has a consistent problem with ending them. A real disappointment.

Grade: C

 

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