by Shirley Lorraine
Ojai Actors Explore Inner Space
Have you ever had an out-of-body experience in which you know you are somewhere important, but cannot seem to pin down where? I had one such experience just recently when I went to see All in the Timing by David Ives at the Ojai Art Center Theater.
This unusual offering was presented in five one-act plays that challenge the brain. As I understand it, the author has written a plethora of one-acts and various productions choose which to present.
Director Steve Grumette’s previous experiences with Ives’ works led him to pitching his enthusiasm to the theater wing of the Art Center. Each of the five pieces is a mind-bending adventure into vocabulary, possibilities, and aspects of the central theme of “what if.”
What if, for instance, a conversation could be instantly re-written if the current one just is not working? Using an age-old improv technique of “new line,” a bell rings and the actors try again with a different response or a new expression or a new action. In the second act titled “Sure Thing” a couple meet in a restaurant and keep changing verbalizations until ultimately a suitable stopping point is reached. Some conversations play out like that. Some stop attempting to make sense of it all and don’t get that far.
The author certainly does have a way with words, flinging them about with abandon. At times, I found it to be more than my Friday night brain could absorb. In the act Philip Glass Buys a Loaf of Bread, the four actors begin with a single line each. As the action progresses, they are reduced to a single word, trading the words as they move about. Singing and dancing to the rhythm of the syllables, the words become soup. The act was written to parody the minimalist style of prolific composer Philip Glass.
The ensemble includes Grummette himself, Anna Kotula, Daniel Ruark, Larry Swartz and Sherry Owen. What a challenging actor’s exercise the collection of one-acts presented. The actors, however, were up to the task, freeing themselves from verbal restrictions, encouraging the audience to allow the depth of the concepts to whirl around in inner space. Whether a person ultimately funnels the whirling thoughts to a reasonable ending seems to be up to the individual.
The wide range of theatrical offerings this season surely has something for everyone’s tastes.
The OACT’s season continues with the ever popular ‘The Music Man” opening June 24. What a perfect staging for the summer. This will be one to bring the entire family to enjoy. The evening performances begin at 7:30 through the summer and downtown Ojai thrives on the weekends, so parking can be challenging. Put on your walking shoes and enjoy the beauty of Ojai.
The Ojai Art Center is located at 113 S. Montgomery Street. www.ojaiact.org (805) 640-8797