All in the Timing - David Ives Essay example

1002 Words Mar 27th, 2011 5 Pages
All In The Timing
The plays of David Ives are certainly clever and comic. There is no doubt that Ives gives us inventive scenarios that smartly use language and test our knowledge before we chuckle. But what does it all mean, anyway? What do we gain from the techniques he uses in the one-act plays of All in the Timing? Are they meaningful works, or simply highfalutin vignettes? To answer these questions, let’s consider three of his plays: “Words, Words, Words,” “Variations on the Death of Trotsky,” and “The Philadelphia.” By examining these works, it will be clear that the devices Ives uses do little more than facilitate the telling of humorous sketches, and that they don’t generate any substance or lasting meaning.
“Words, Words,
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Of course these references are witty, but there are so many of them, that they eventually erode the originality of his work. The play is ultimately an anecdote – a joke for well-read people. Sure you could argue that elements of humanity come to light when Swift “evolves” and comes up with the idea of taking revenge on Dr. Rosenbaum, but all this is diminished in significance by the relentless parody of Hamlet. In “Variations on the Death of Trotsky,” Ives playfully manipulates time, and uses the breaks in time as a dynamic in his play. This is interesting, and again, this manipulation of time produces multiple doses of anecdotal humor. There is one time when the play goes beyond simple anecdote and gives a profound moment. This is when Trotsky is coming to terms with his death. He ponders:
So even an assassin can make the flowers grow. The gardener was false, and yet the garden that he tended was real. How was I to know he was my killer when I passed him every day? (65)
But this does not redeem the whole, or make this play a meaningful work. Though there’s lots of witty dialogue and the punch line (Trotsky dropping dead) is always good for a laugh, it ultimately feels like an exercise for a playwright, as if Ives is experimenting with several narrative paths. True, we get different paths to the same outcome, but it’s always the same end: Trotsky dead. There is meant to be something in this

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