Ringing the Bell

Playwright David Ives scores with an evening of sketches

A scantily dressed stage. A few dexterous actors. And, offstage, a hotel-desk bell. In David Ives' fertile world, these are the only requirements for theater that aerobicizes the brain and tickles the heart.

Ives, 43, is the new off-off-Broadway sensation. Critical and popular response to All in the Timing, an evening of six Ives caprices, has cued a stampede to New York City's tiny Primary Stages, from whence they will soon move to roomier quarters. But Ives is more than a Manhattan fad. He is a mordant comic who has put the play back in playwright.

Sure Thing, the opening playlet,...

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