A Conversation With Playwright David Ives, the Mind Behind All in the Timing

By Harry Haun
20 Jan 2013

All in the Timing's Matthew Saldivar
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Have you moved on to another play?
I just did another French comedy called The Metromaniacs, adapted from a brilliant French comedy of 1738 that I don't think has ever been translated.

You read it in the original French? Are you used to doing that?
Yeah. That's how I work with all of these French plays. I always work straight from the French because I don't want somebody else's translation in my way. They're usually not very good, anyway.

I just always read the French over and over and over again, take a lot of notes. Usually, I spend a couple of months just taking notes and getting the structure right. Then, I sit down and start work on it.

Is that the only other language you work in?
Actually, my German is much better than my French.

Is that how you found Venus in Fur? I certainly read Venus in Fur in German — and read it a lot in German when I was working on that play, going back to the original — but the problem with German is that there are not a lot of plays in German that I would like to work on. The French have a whole raft of comedies that have never been translated, and I'm sort of exploring those.

You know, your wit has upstaged your language skills. This is a side of you I didn't know about — and it's been going on all this time?
Yep. You can't just stand in the street and say, "I speak French."

Is there a parallel between your foreign-language translations and your Encores! musical adaptations?
Doing 33 "Encores!" has certainly helped doing these French plays. Since I'm working in verse, it's very close to working on a musical. The music of the language is very important, so I try to structure these French comedies pretty much like a musical. There'll be a variety song, there'll be a Duet, there'll be a sort of choral conclusion to an act. Working for Encores! has been invaluable for working on French comedies.

Of the Encores! you've done, which ones are you proudest of, and why?
I would say Strike Up the Band, the 1927 George S. Kaufman show, with Kristin Chenoweth, Phil Bosco and Lynn Redgrave. I loved working on that. I loved working on Pardon My English, which was another Gershwin musical with a book by Morrie Ryskind. And Anyone Can Whistle, just because it was a famously troubled musical and I thought we all just did really good work on it.

Did you ever hear from Arthur Laurents about it?
Casey Nicholaw, who directed it, and I had to go over and talk to Arthur to sort of get his go-ahead to fiddle with the book — because it had to be cut down — just to ask him questions about what was in his mind when he wrote it and if he had any wisdom he could give us about the show. He was really very nice. He certainly didn't object to my version of it. I didn't talk to him after the show, but I heard he liked it.

Back to The Metromaniacs: what does the title mean?
Metromania is an addiction to poetry — to writing or reading poetry — and the metromaniacs is a bunch of people addicted to poetry in a country house, falling in love and mistaking identities. I had great, great fun writing it.

That's for the Shakespeare Theatre of Washington, where I've done two French comedies already. One was School for Lies, my version of The Misanthrope, and it got a great production here from Classic Stage with Hamish Linklater and Mamie Gummer, directed by Walter Bobbie. It is, by far, my best play.