Theater Review

Welcome to the sublimely antic world of David Ives at Barrington Stage Company

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PITTSFIELD — Pure laughs have been hard to come by in the region's theaters thus far this summer. The world has been very much with us. So, thank you Barrington Stage Company for "Time Flies" at the St. Germain Stage, where this sublime evening of six wonderfully funny short plays by David Ives is being performed through July 27 by a cast of utterly mad, immensely skilled performers — Debra Jo Rupp, Cary Donaldson, Ruth Pferdehirt, the buoyantly antic Carson Elrod, and Jeff McCarthy, who just goes for broke and leaves all of us the better for it.

Ives is certifiable in the very best of ways; an inspired madman who has a canny knack for looking at the upside-down absurdities of life and human interaction; playing against expectation; redefining the normal and familiar and somehow coming down right-side up.

The world according to Ives is a carnival of absurdities so, why not push those absurdities to logical extremes and make lemonade from the lemons life throws us. Thus, in the witty "The Philadelphia," a young man (Donaldson) wandering into a neighborhood diner in New York in search of something to eat gets an object lesson in how to get what you want when you can't get what you want. Life, then, is an ongoing negotiation in a setting in which the rules are constantly changing but which operates with a logical consistency that is all its own.

This also is a universe in which the life force cannot be denied even in the face of mortality — the relationship between a mother (Rupp) and her adult son (Donaldson) and daughter-in-law (Pferderhirt) in the second-half opener, "Life Signs;" Marxist theorist and Russian revolutionist Leon Trotsky (Elrod) operating at full gallop with an ax wedged in the top of his head in "Variations on the Death of Leon Trotsky;" two mayflies named may and Horace (an absolutely endearing Rupp and Elrod), who learn the hard way that their first date, which is going swimmingly, also is their only and last date in the opener, "Time Flies;" a corpse on a living room floor in the closing "The Mystery of Twicknam Vicarage" that clearly has a mind of its own.

Even when Ives stumbles — which he does in "The Enigma Variations," which wears out its welcome fast and early — these players don't. Individually and together, under Tracy Brigden's sly, savvy direction, they sail through Ives' material on currents of antic abandon, leaving indelible images — McCarthy in a nurse's uniform; Rupp and Donaldson's entrance at the very opening; Elrod with an ax in his head, among others — in their wake. They seem to be having the time of their lives. You will too.

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