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Time Flies

It's said time flies when you're having fun, and the fun quotient is sky-high in David Ives' sextet of comic plays at the Old Globe. Not all six plays within "Time Flies" work perfectly, particularly the final two, but director Matt August and a peerless cast capture the distinctive notes in Ives' literary voice.

It’s said time flies when you’re having fun, and the fun quotient is sky-high in David Ives’ sextet of comic plays at the Old Globe. Moving from anthropomorphic mayflies to British detectives and inept biblical construction workers, the author maintains a warped, witty tone, and even manages to humanize some of his screwball protagonists. Not all six plays within “Time Flies” work perfectly, particularly the final two, but director Matt August and a peerless cast capture the distinctive notes in Ives’ literary voice.

Easily the evening’s highlight is “The Mystery of Twicknam Vicarage,” a sendup of stiff-upper-lip British drawing-room mysteries. Channeling suave Ray Milland and bumbling Peter Sellers, David Adkins is a rector who’s among the suspects in the murder of ladies’ man Jeremy (Jeffrey Brick). Other suspects include contemptuous wife Sarah (Nancy Bell) and the corpse’s widow, Mona (Mia Barron), who cries in wonderfully cliched fashion, “He was so alive!” A marvelous bit of direction has the actors walking rapidly in reverse-rewind fashion to represent a flashback, and we learn that the dead man (“He was so priapic”) even slept with Dexter (Mark Setlock), the inspector assigned to the case.

In the opener, set in David Ledsinger’s ingenious marsh and lily pad set, mayflies Horace (Setlock) and May (Barron) adopt inspired buzzing sounds that signal imminent mating. This love affair is interrupted when David Attenborough (Adkins) drops down to the stage via rope and informs them they have one day to live. “I can rule out multiple orgasms,” Barron hilariously comments, as the brokenhearted bugs try to find a solution and decide they should use their final hours flying to Paris. Their costumes by Holly Poe Durbin — silver wings; big, round black glasses, antennas, iridescent vests — are as clever as the dialogue.

Show’s second episode takes place in the desert circa 1000 B.C., as Gorph (Setlock) and Cannaphilt (Adkins) lug a heavy stone and begin building the Tower of Babel. Along comes a tyrannical businesswoman (Bell), who demands the overworked duo complete the tower quickly “or else you die,” prompting them to reflect, “Why should we get sucked into some pyramid scheme?” The sequence has an outlandish Monty Python flavor, with shades of “Wizard of Id,” and there are enjoyably campy turns by Bell and Brick as a lanky eunuch. Pacing here isn’t as snappy as in Part One, but the sequence delivers plentiful of laughs.

“The Green Hill” embraces Somerset Maugham-“Razor’s Edge” territory, as Jake (Adkins) visualizes a green hill where he can find peace and dashes all over the world trying to locate it. His girlfriend, Sandy (Bell), is understandably dismayed, but it doesn’t stop Jake from searching for his lost horizon, encountering 16,973 hills in the process. A sensational visual has Jake standing on a green parachute that spreads on every side, and Ives pulls off a major feat — he emotionally involves us in Jake’s spiritual odyssey.

“Bolero,” about a woman (Bell) panicking over noises she hears. Her bedmate (Setlock) who shrugs them off, builds mild suspense but falls short on humor and peters out with a weak punchline.

Final one-act, set in a church basement, “Lives of the Saints” is a well-acted character study of two women, Flo (Barron) and Edna (Bell), preparing for a funeral. But it is too low-key a climax after its high-powered predecessors. Fortunately, the lesser entries don’t dim our awareness of Ives as a major satirist and playwright.

Time Flies

Old Globe Theater, Cassius Carter Center Stage; 225 seats; $50 top

  • Production: An Old Globe-Cassius Carter Center Stage presentation of six plays by David Ives. Directed by Matt August.
  • Crew: Sets, David Ledsinger; costumes, Holly Poe Durbin; lighting, Chris Rynne; sound, Paul Peterson; stage manager, Julie Baldauff. Opened and reviewed Aug. 2, 2003; closes Sept. 7. Running time: 2 HOURS, 15 MIN.
  • Cast: <B>Time Flies</B><br> Horace - Mark Setlock May - Mia Barron David Attenborough - David Adkins Frog - Jefrrey Brick <B>Babel's in Arms</B><br> Gorph - Mark Setlock Cannaphilt - David Adkins Businesswoman - Nancy Bell High Priestess - Mia Barron Eunuch - Jeffrey Brick<br> <B>The Green Hill</B><br> Jake - David Adkins Sandy - Nancy Bell<br> <B>The Mystery at Twicknam Vicarage</B><br> Roger - David Adkins Sarah - Nancy Bell Dexter - Mark Setlock Mona - Mia Barron Jeremy - Jeffrey Brick<br> <B>Bolero</B><br> Man - Mark Setlock Woman - Nancy Bell<br> <B>Lives of the Saints</B><br> Flo - Mia Barron Edna - Nancy Bell <B>The Green Hill</B><br> <B>Ensemble:</B> Mia Barron, Jeffrey Brick, Mark Setlock. <B>Lives of the Saints</B><br> <B>Ensemble:</B> Jeffrey Brick, David Adkins, Mark Setlock
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