David Ives’ “Lives of the Saints,” now at Ghostlight Theatre Club, is comprised of seven one-act comedies of varying efficacy. An accomplished stylist, Ives works the language like Silly Putty, and he’s not above double entendres and groan-inducing puns.
In “Babel’s in Arms,” about building the Tower of Babel, you get dialogue such as “Did you khlumnafluffa himnaflekh?” and “Did you use the shpoont?” (I consulted the script.) Also here, Ives substitutes forms of the wellknown Anglo-Saxon tetragram for coitus for words that seemingly had not been coined during the biblical period.
The playwright mines movies, television and pop culture for ideas. High culture, too. When’s the last time you heard a character in a contemporary comedy ask who wrote “Götterdämmerung”? In “Soap Opera,” the correct answer — Wagner — is given by a washing machine. What’s so strange about that when it’s a “Maypole” washer that’s being taken to dinner at a fancy French restaurant by the “Maypole repairman”?
No one is spot-on all the time, so “Lives” contains many long, arid stretches of silliness or just dullness. But the play is really funny at times, and in a season that’s suffered a dearth of actually humorous comedies, it makes for a pleasant evening.
Credit should go to the terrific ensemble cast. In “Babel’s in Arms,” the always-solid Ian Clinton and the excellent Jason McKelvy, who’s new to me, play stonemasons at the tower. In “Arabian Nights,” Victoria Stahl portrays an interpreter who either translates what she would like people to say — as opposed to what they actually say — or who is a fabulist beyond all get out.
In the sweet title scene, Clinton and Josh Irick are church ladies preparing a funeral breakfast at St. Stanislas parish. This part proves one thing: Ives spent a lot of time in church kitchens as a youth. As Edna and Flo, Clinton and Irick make a sumptuous breakfast of comfort food in pantomime, while McKelvy, Tyler Waits and Rick Foresee provide sound effects. The scene reminds one of how city-area directors often neglect the use of sound in theater. And by sound, I don’t mean recorded music.
In “Enigma Variations,” Mrs. Bebe W. Doppelgängler visits her therapist, Bill Williams. Stahl and Foresee play the patient and therapist, while Jeni White and Waits are the doppelgängers, who echo their counterparts’ every move. One can imagine how the scene could be a theatrical tour de force, if executed to perfection.
“Captive Audience” involves Rob and Laura, as in Petrie of television’s “Dick Van Dyke Show,” who are prisoners of the one-eyed monster. Not exactly a new idea.
“The Mystery of Twicknam Vicarage” parodies British murder mysteries and sex comedies at the same time.
Although noticeably well done and highly energetic, the production, directed by Emily Etherton, would benefit from tighter execution in parts. A show that should crackle is often doing a slow burn.