Direction : Faezeh Jalali
Writer : David Ives
Cast : Asif Ali Beg, Kaneez Surka, Malaika Choudhury, Naveen Kaushik, Siddharth Menon, Shivani Tanksale and Sumeet Vyas


Vikram Phukan

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A melange of several short set-pieces written by David Ives, ALL IN THE TIMING is Faezeh Jalali's second outing as director this year-the first was JAAL for Writer's Bloc. With its spiffy setting and light-hearted cut-and-thrust, the play appears to have caught her in her stride. The well-intentioned JAAL suffered from an overt stylization that proved to be at odds with its upcountry moorings. Here, there are flourishes she delivers to the staging which doesn't quite veer into gimmickry for the most part, even if the director's hand is clearly visible. For instance, the amusing opening piece, featuring a couple who meet at a cafe, is intuitively split-screened into three pairs of actors enacting several possible instances of the same meeting, in a musical chairs meets speed-dating spiel that allows us to enter the play with a distinct elevation in spirit.


Once inside, the play has several lip-smacking moments in store. There are embellishments that add much-needed local flavor to the material. When a set-piece called 'The Philadelphia', a meditation on urban disaffection, is transposed to Pune, it fits rather well. The city is where your life's pursuits appear to be bogged down in a kind of eternal torpor. Live-wire Siddharth Menon, who has done well in plays from the Pune-based Aasakta group, absolutely chews upon his part as an angst-ridden Punekar, creating an instant connect with the folk who nod along with each stock indictment of the beleaguered city, even if the text talks of burgers, beer and steak.

One of the more universally popular pieces from the Ives repertoire talks of a fraudulent language coach, who specializes in Una Munda, a so-called universal tongue, and who takes in a stutterer as prized student. Both Asif Ali Baig (as the teacher) and Malaika Shenoy take on the parts with much gusto and display a remarkable felicity with the language (a pun-ridden dialect with a distinctly Germanic tone) without which the piece would have fallen flat on its face. For Mr Baig-this one piece de resistance turn, nicely offsets his relatively camp delivery elsewhere.

Another piece has the actors in masks, but not to any great effect. It delves into the psyche of diners at a restaurant over several years, as they change spouses and lovers, and personality traits, even as what's on the menu remains obstinately the same. The idea of having masks is fine, but these particular ones add nothing to the performances, except for Ms Shenoy's whose turn seemed to be underscored perfectly by her condescending veneer. That piece is part of a second half that is surprisingly weak despite the stronger material at its disposal.

As the title suggests, ALL IN THE TIMING depends much upon actors hitting the right moments with well-timed efficiency. Ms Jalali's cast seems up for it with their rather infectious brand of joie de vivre, but in what is a ultimately a clinical cascade of cues delivered spot on, we don't really encounter the sparkling vitality that is such a feature of lines that have been truly ad-libbed (at least in appearance). More importantly, in a play so insistently dependent on word-play and getting the flavor of the language just right, not all the actors seem equal to the task.

To conclude the proceedings, there is a closing number in the form of an almost unrehearsed qawaali, a paean to brief encounters which, even if it sits well with the tenor of the play, is too slight a musical sketch to truly enthrall. This is the first play from FAT productions, but the group has, in its ranks, artists of impeccable pedigree; the expectations remain reasonably high, and are not entirely met throughout the play's running time. The play oscillates between the collegiate and the polished, but indeed, if this ensemble gets its act together, ALL IN THE TIMING is a show with a good pair of legs, bound to make a good run in the comedy circuit.

*Vikram Phukan runs the theatre appreciation website, Stage Impressions-

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