Student-directed comedies explore how language limits us, and also builds bridges

All in the Timing, the latest show by UC Berkeley’s Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies, explores how language defines and limits us, but can also bridge the spaces between us.

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Directed, designed and performed by students, the play, written by playwright David Ives, consists of four, one-act comedies — “Time Flies,” “English Made Simple,” “Universal Language” and “Sure Thing.”

In “Time Flies,” directed by Angelina Steshenko, two mayflies on their first date are interrupted by Sir David Attenborough, who tells them that their lives only last 24 hours. A one-night stand quickly turns into a mid-life crisis, as the brokenhearted bugs try to find a solution. “My hope for the audience, ” says Steshenko, “is that they’ll think about how lucky we are as humans to get more than one day to live and we shouldn’t waste any of those days.”

“English Made Simple,” directed by Ceylan Ersoy, shows Jack and Jill after they meet at a party. A narrator offers solemn insight into what each of them is really thinking as they speak. “The first time I read this one-act, it was as if I were reading dialogues I’ve had in my own life — a brutal revelation of what actually goes on in a daily human interaction,” says Ersoy. “The stage reflects the truths that we avoid, and the reason it’s so funny is because we see ourselves in the characters.

“The Universal Language” follows a shy woman with a stutter as she places her faith in a language tutor who promises to teach her the made-up universal language Unamunda. “My goal,” says director Tanvi Agrawal, “ is that audiences will walk away thinking about the many nuances and complexities that hide below the surface of ‘normal’ human behavior. I want them to be perplexed at how it’s possible to communicate a story without conventional language.”

In “Sure Thing,” Bill and Betty meet in a coffee shop and, in an attempt to connect, stumble over their words in an awkward exchange. Every time they get to a dead-end in the conversation, however, a bell rings, resetting the conversation. “The beautiful message within each of the four plays brings forward a little quirk about human relationships,” says director Carmel Suchard. “I think audiences will leave with a smile on their face.”

All in the Timing opens tonight (Thursday, March 15) and runs through Sunday, March 18, at the Zellerbach Playhouse. Tickets are $10 for Berkeley students, staff and faculty and seniors, and $15 for general admission; they can be purchased online or at the door. The show runs 70 minutes with no intermission.

For more information about All in the Timing or to by tickets, visit the theater, dance and performance studies website.