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All in the Timing

4.18 of 5 stars 4.18  ·  rating details  ·  2,910 ratings  ·  89 reviews
The world according to David Ives is a very odd place, and his plays constitute a virtual stress test of the English language -- and of the audience's capacity for disorientation and delight. Ives's characters plunge into black holes called "Philadelphias," where the simplest desires are hilariously thwarted. Chimps named Milton, Swift, and Kafka are locked in a room and m ...more
Paperback, 313 pages
Published November 8th 1994 by Vintage Books (first published October 1st 1994)
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Hamlet by William ShakespeareMacbeth by William ShakespeareThe Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar WildeRomeo and Juliet by William ShakespeareA Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
Best Plays Ever
77th out of 533 books — 682 voters
All in the Timing by David IvesDon't Mention It by David-Matthew BarnesChristopher, Durang by Christopher DurangJimmy - A One Act Play by Lucian CarterBarefoot in the Park by Neil Simon
Best Short Plays
1st out of 15 books — 7 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jan 26, 2008 MacK rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to MacK by: Elizabeth
Shelves: favorites, dramas, am-lit
I am well versed in the works of David Ives. I spent the better part of my high school weekends in Montana classrooms watching his short scenes enacted by a hundred or so peers and did more than a few myself. His first collection, All in the Timing, is a marvelously compendium of wit and wisdom that not even the worst, most tumultuously pubescent teenage reader can ruin. Sure Thing, The Philadelphia, and Mere Mortals are the brightest stars in this collection, but other, more inventive plays lik ...more
I cheated. I didn't read the two-act play included in this set. I started it and then felt that it was just too much Ives in one sitting.

Still, this is my first time experiencing ALL of the All in the Timing. I've seen "Sure Thing", "Words, Words, Words", "The Philadelphia", and "The Universal Language" before in previous drama classes and/or One Act plays. They're funny and enjoyable and the play on language is fantastic.

Some of these are simply amazing and demand an orchestration so precise th
All the sudden I got into my head that I wanted to read this play that was in one of my college lit books. What I remembered was that two people were in a cafe and every time a bell rang they changed their conversation.

Not much of a starting point, so I threw these facts at ex-bf Matt who knows his playwriting - and he totally called it.

Some of the plays are super silly in a very 90's comedy kind of way, but I like "Sure Thing". It covers nearly every plausible outcome of two people meeting ran
Sep 07, 2014 Kate added it
All In the Timing by David Ives is a fantastic collection of one act plays. David Ives is not only hilarious, but also creates some interesting artistic choices, like his play, Philip Glass Buys a Loaf of Bread, which uses the same simple pieces of dialogue repeatedly in different patterns throughout the entire play. Although some of his plays seem to lend themselves more to being read, such as The Universal Language, many are better read aloud, or better yet, performed by several people. I laug ...more
Travis Tatsch
First thing's first: Ives has got to be one of the funniest playwrights I've ever read. If you have even the slightest interest in laughing or having a giggle, I'd suggest picking this up. Ives uses wordplay, theatrics, and pure absurdity to split one's sides, and he's fairly successful in doing it; this is honestly one of very few books to actually make me laugh to the point where I actually had to stop and finish laughing before I could continue reading. That being said, if any theatre company ...more
Mandy Stigant
I'm biased. Did a bunch of these plays for my Senior Studio in Drama at UD. They have a special place in my heart.
Jennifer Lauren Collins
Ives' "Sure Thing" stands out in my memory as one of my favorite one-act performances of all time even though it was probably one of the first one-acts I ever saw performed--and, while much of that outstanding performance should be attributed to the fantastic timing and acting involved that day, much of the credit also goes to Ives' outstanding writing. That one-act, though, is only one of the fourteen plays collected here, and all of them are masterful examples of Ives' clever and funny writing ...more
R.G. Evans
Six comic one-act plays, in descending order of my preference:

"Words, Words, Words": Three monkeys named Swift, Milton, and Kafka are part of an experiment to see if they can in fact type Hamlet, all the while throwing bits of Shakespeare's play into their dialogue.

"Sure Thing": A couple meet at a cafe and every time their conversation hits a deal-breaker, a bell rings and they rewind a little and start again.

"The Philadelphia": Everything's going wrong for Mark, so Al explains that such a turn
David Ives is a masterful playwright. He knows how to say a lot without saying much (or by saying the same simple things over and over). His plays are either devastatingly funny or just...devsstating. He explores all manner of human relationships, though mostly romantic ones, in ways the are honest to the point of brutality and sometimes almost too cynical to take. However, his plays feel - you can't deny that. Variations on the Death of Trotsky, The Philadelphia, and A Singular Kind of Guy are ...more
While I was in Chicago for Christmas, my girlfriend's parents took us all to the Chicago Shakespeare Theater to see, of course, Moliere's School for Lies, adapted by David Ives from The Misanthrope. It was hilarious and silly in the way that Moliere is; for instance, one suitor to the heroine explains that his major accomplishment is being quite stupid; and the whole play wraps up neaty and tidily.

But in the Ives adaptation, there's some extra zing in those zingers, whether it's the anachronism
Oh, David Ives, I think I'm in love with you!

I stumbled across this book when my friend moved out of town; it was in her discard pile. As a playwright, I love finding and reading new voices, so I grabbed it, took it home, and put it on my "to read" nightstand. I didn't read it, though, until after I won a playwriting contest and one of the adjudicators told me that my play felt a lot like the work of David Ives. In that moment, I remember having adopted the book and I dove into it to assess the
Sajjad Haider
Excellent fun read for those you like dialogue and one act plays. A lot can be learn from this book on storytelling without exposition. I think I have a lot to learn here and will go back into reading this.Not to mention I have re-read it a few times.
Jacob / Julie
Mar 02, 2008 Jacob / Julie marked it as to-read
This book came up in conversation, totally independently from my reading of Word Freak, as a response to some passages from Tom Stoppard plays on language ... I think we originally got on the topic from the subject of ambiguity (and there from a discussion of the illustrated Strunk & White) which let to "Hamlet... in love... with the old man's daughter... the old man... thinks." And from there to David Ives' "The Universal Language" -- which as an Esperanto speaker I am immediately interest ...more
Jan 30, 2008 W.B. rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
All the plays thematically toy with various ideas and implications of time. The quality of the writing ranges from near-genius to totally gimmicky. I'm fairly certain this guy is the one responsible for the movie Groundhog Day. There are some very imaginative games he plays in here, and there is innovative staging to represent various (often cerebrally engaging, but sometimes rather heartbreaking) models of time. It's very accessible work, however...which is why the plays are increasingly gettin ...more
Brianna Karp
Just got this book today, sat down and read the entire thing straight through. I vaguely remembered four of the one-acts being performed in drama class my freshman year of high school... I remember finding them funny but after re-reading them now, a few years later, I get a lot more of the humor that went over my head at the time. And all I can say is: David Ives is a f***ing genius. He's hysterically funny, has an odd and quirky view of the world, and in the midst of it all, actually has someth ...more
Oumaima Alyassini
This book deserves more than five stars.. It's a great collection of incredible farces !! I enjoyed each one of them.
Neil Schleifer
At times brilliantly funny; at times a bit too clever for his own good, David Ives creates a series of 5-10 minute abdurdly comical vignettes that deal with life, death, romance and the random inevitability of a universe over which we have no control.

On their own, the pieces stand as lovely set pieces -- particularly "Una Moonda" which deals with language and our desperate inability to try to communicate with one another. Together they are not always very cohesive. They are most definitely an en
Read for school, liked 3 of plays, loved 1 (Words, Words, Words) honestly hated the rest. Especially hating two of the more popular plays. While Ives is a master of wordplay, he spends a bit too much timing showing off his prowess and not enough timing thinking about his audience. When you try too hard to show how smart you are and be funny and go right over the top of the audiences's a miss. Also, stuffing too many plays into one work that are so similar in delivery style is extremel ...more
Andy Perelson
Fantastic. Ives word play and timing is quite phenomenal.
Holly Evans
Easily my favorite one-act playwrite.
Karl-erik Jansson
Brilliantly hysterical playwright. I love the monkeys, Philadelphia and Sure Thing the most.
I'd probably give this a 4.5 (rather than a 4) if I could. I really enjoyed it, but I'd hold off from giving it a 5 because some one-acts were just "good," not "great." The best were "Sure Thing" and "Foreplay, the Art of the Fugue." Both are very clever, fast-paced, and fun, and I immediately went online to look up stagings of them. "Philip Glass Buys a Loaf of Bread" was another favorite, although you have to watch it rather than read it to really understand it and get the full effect.

I'd hig
Sometimes he gets a little too snappy, but the drama is always compelling enough that it doesn't matter. "Words, Words, Words" epitomizes this, sometimes it's just too much at once, but then with the ending something sympathetic calms over. It's like when you're at the beach and a lot of huge waves knock you over and you get kind of annoyed and while standing there braced hell for a few seconds, then a soft wave just rolls past your legs, and you remember why you like the beach.
Apart from "Long Ago and Far Away," (I think it was that one...) which is one of the most depressing things I've ever read, this is a fantastic collection of wonderous absurdism.

Very faves:

"The Universal Language." It only works if you read it out loud. Witty as anything, and bizarrely sweet on top of it all.

"The Philadelphia" - How much snark can you cram into a one-act playlet? Ask Ives.

"Philip Glass Buys a Loaf Of Bread" - Yup, pretty much.
I read this back in university, and I loved it. Wouldn't mind tracking it down and reading it again.
Read the six plays that are part of the All In the Timing script that you can produce. Here is the order in which I liked the plays from most to least.
The universal language
Variations on the death of Trotsky
Sure thing
The Philadelphia
Words words words
Phillip glass buys a loaf of bread

Would possibly use the first three as a scene study in my class, but not as a produced play. My audience would not get it.
May 10, 2007 Jamie rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: plays
A collection of very short and very inventive plays. The laguage is crisp and playful. They're a bit short on plot at times, but that's often the point. These plays are simple to produce in that they require little technically (many can be done with one or two props) but are very hard to pull off due to the language. It really is all in the timing. Worth the read if only for "Sure Thing" which is now heavily anthologized.
Aug 13, 2010 Matt rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: plays
Astoundingly funny and delightfully creative. It's hard to imagine anyone writing a one-act play giving a trip to the bakery some "Einstein on the Beach" treatment or approach the murder of an exiled Russian revolutionary like a choose-your-own adventure book, but Ives wanders pretty far off the reservation in both. Perhaps the finest piece in the bunch is the first, "Sure Thing". Oh-so-witty.......
Oct 17, 2007 missy marked it as to-read
Recommends it for: actors! thespians!
tgiinternet. i've been trying to find the name of this witty and fun one-act i was in. i thought it was called nice try, and i knew it involved a bell. and i somehow found it, even though it's not called nice try but sure thing. google didn't care that i don't remember these facts, google connected me to it's proper author, david ives, and now i want to read this book.
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A contemporary American playwright whose plays often consist of one act and are generally comedies. They are notable for their verbal dexterity, theatrical invention, and quirky humor.

He earned his MFA in Playwriting from The Yale School of Drama. A Guggenheim Fellow in playwriting, David is probably best known for his evening of one-act comedies called "All In the Timing". The show won the Outer
More about David Ives...
Venus in Fur Time Flies and Other Short Plays Voss Sure Thing Scrib

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“so even an assassin can make the flowers grow." -variations on the death of Trotsky” 1 likes
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