William Saroyan's 1939 absurdist comedy is a waste of you-know-what
THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE by William Saroyan, directed by Albert Schultz (Soulpepper). At the Young Centre for the Performing Arts (55 Mill). To August 11. $20-$59. See Continuing, page 73. 416- 866-8666, www.soulpepper.ca. Rating: NN
It’s a terrible irony that a play entitled The Time Of Your Life has audience members staring at their watches as their lives drain away minute by tiresome minute.
Set in 1939 in a San Francisco bar called Nick’s Pacific Street Saloon, the play features a variety of lost characters hammering back drinks and unpacking their emotional and psychological baggage under the eager tutelage of resident barfly Joe ( Joseph Ziegler ).
Because context is everything, it is undisputed that, in 1939, William Saroyan ‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning play was a hopeful and multi-ethnic collage of definitions of the American dream. It served the prophetic and poignant purpose of clarifying the nation’s values of personal freedom and individuality on the verge of the Second World War.
Still, beyond its historical value and the neat saloon-style set, there’s no getting around the fact that this show is a yawnfest. While high points include Stuart Hughes ‘s portrayal of a drunken cowboy and Jeff Lillico ‘s tap dancing (is there anything this actor can’t do?), moments of absurd comedy and historical accuracy are no substitute for character and plot.
Watching Ziegler wax philosophical about the wonder and ridiculousness of life, as he once again (as in A Whistle In The Dark) plays the eccentric patriarch to a gifted cast, seems a waste of talent as well as time.