The monkeys needed manual typewriters, so Kevin Johnson turned to Craigslist.
He found a typewriter that had languished in a roach-filled garage for years. When he took the prop back to the cast of "All in the Timing" at Arizona Onstage Productions, he unintentionally brought some creepy crawlies with him.
"The actors were screaming and running around everywhere," said Johnson, the artistic director of Arizona Onstage, which opens "All in the Timing" next week.
The roaches were unexpected, but then, this show is all about unpredictability.
From lab monkeys writing "Hamlet" to the introduction of a new, universal language, this 20-year-old show features six one-act plays with one thing in common: words.
"It's about how one word can change a story line or the dynamic of a whole story," Johnson said in a phone interview. "We're looking at word choice, whether it makes sense or is nonsensical, whether it's absurdist theater or abstract or just silly. What's the difference? Maybe the audience comes up with that answer on their own."
With no common story line connecting the vignettes, the production's continuity comes from its vibe - light and funny, but full of substance.
Carrie Hill, Eva Tessler and Sheldon Metz each direct two vignettes.
"The challenge might be: How does this director direct this actor as a monkey? Is it literal or figurative?" Johnson said. "It's so well-composed, but there's also this seemingly random nature, like sparks flying. You don't see them coming, and as soon as you realize it, it's over."
The different styles of the directors make each vignette quirky, keeping the audience on its toes and thinking.
"I want the audience to get caught off-guard and not fall into a pattern that having one director might create," Johnson said. "I want each piece to be a complete surprise to the audience."
It's a play on words. Literally.
if you go
• What: Arizona Onstage Productions' "All in the Timing."
• Playwright: David Ives.
• Directors: Carrie Hill, Eva Tessler and Sheldon Metz.
• When: Preview 8 p.m. today; regular performances are 8 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays through May 19.
• Where: Cabaret Theatre at the Temple of Music and Art, 330 S. Stone Ave.
• Cost: $15 preview. $27.50 regular performances. Discounts available.
•Reservations: 1-800-838-3006 or Arizonaonstage.org or brownpapertickets.com
• Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission.
• Actors: Samantha Cormier, Sean Dylan, Bebe Fischer, Rhonda Hallquist, James Hendo, Jonathan Northover, Tanner Page, Carley Preston, Rob Roberts and Jared Stokes.
•Et cetera: Contains mature language.
Johanna Willett is a University of Arizona journalism student who is an apprentice at the Star. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org