The First Night of Theater at the Knitting Factory: All in the Timing

11/02/2010 4:06 PM |

Knitting Factory Stage

Last night Williamsburg’s Knitting Factory made its first foray into theater, with two productions taking the stage at 8pm and 10pm. Judging by the crowd coming out of the earlier performance, Can I Really Date a Guy Who Wears a Yarmulke?, just as the Williamsburg Theatre Company started setting up around 9:30pm, that first performance was a success, filling up the 50 or so seats set up in the space with room for another half-dozen at the bar. Shortly after 10pm, with the room filled up again and extra folding chairs set up around a square performance space in front of the stage, the Williamsburg Theatre Company’s Joseph Hendel-directed production of David Ives’ series of shorts, All in the Timing, got underway.

Hendel introduced the show with a disclaimer pertaining to the hybrid nature of doing theater in a concert space, inviting the audience to go get drinks at the bar whenever they felt like it during the performance, without of course getting in the way of the show. He, or a member of the cast (including one, Adam Delahanty, who was planted in the audience during the opening) introduced each of the six sketch-like scenes, sometimes stalling a little, but never annoyingly so, while props and costumes were moved, rearranged or swapped. The production made full use of the space, with some characters entering behind the audience, and sections played out on the stage, in front of it, and in one scene at the bar.

The short comic scenes are very dynamic, and the young company brings a furious energy to each, with eight actors splitting the 17 parts, most doing two characters, a couple taking on three. The series of clever scenes either take familiar social situations to absurd ends—like the coffee shop pick-up “Sure Thing” and dive bar geo-therapy session “The Philadelphia”—or comment on some major cultural figure, artifact or project. In “Words, Words, Words,” chimps named Milton (Shawn Amaro), Swift (Harry May-Kline) and Kafka (Arielle Siegel) are locked in a lab until they happen to write Hamlet. As they lament their condition and agonizingly wonder “What is a Hamlet,” their solutions reflect not only the authors whose names they bear, but also the plot of the play they’re supposed to be copying without knowing it. In the final piece, “Philip Glass Buys a Loaf of Bread,” a modernist musical parody, the same three actors are joined by Sydney Matthews, all in black leotards, turning an unremarkable bakery purchase into a cyclical composition and dance.

Every segment comes off very well, with inevitable first show miscues and technical difficulties resulting from the inherent differences between theaters and concert venues adding to the mad-cap mood and playing to the quick actors’ sharp sensibilities. As the performances on every Monday in November become smoother it’ll be interesting to see how the show evolves. Even more intriguing is the new company’s future, particularly in light of Hendel’s comment before the final segment that he’s working on “an anti-Tea Party, take-back-our-nation, country musical.”

Performances of All in the Timing continue at the Knitting Factory every Monday night at 10pm through November 29.