7 SHORT COMEDIES BY DAVID IVES, 5 from all in the timing, Theatre Vox, at Organic Theater Greenhouse, Lab Theater. If the secret to comedy really were "all in the timing," then David Ives could conceivably be the next Tom Stoppard and Theatre Vox's sumptuously designed production would be a hoot. But since Ives's considerable technical skill and polished wit seem to mask a certain soullessness, his self-consciously clever one-line gimmicks posing as plays, his facile name-dropping, and his knowing Stoppard-by-way-of-Seinfeld humor ultimately grow tedious. The plays here--including his most successful work, "Philip Glass Buys a Loaf of Bread," in which the composer's cadences are expertly mimicked--would make for great New Yorker cartoons or short, short short stories. But by taking such an analytical approach to comedy, Ives sacrifices drama and character. And much of his erudition seems false and studied: the names of Kafka, Hegel, and Faulkner blow by with great sound and fury but signify little more than the author's knowledge of their existence.
The half year Theatre Vox and director Victor D'Altorio spent staging these plays seems to have been as much drill as rehearsal, time spent absorbing not only Ives's precision but the emotional vacuum at the plays' core. The timing is razor sharp. Diction is impeccable. D'Altorio's stage design and John Mead's exquisite paintings are stunning. Laughs seem to come in the right places, but almost every one of them feels hollow, since hardly a moment of this two-hour-plus affair rings true.