Time of My Life

"Time of My Life" at the Westport Playhouse thru April 26
Tom Nissley

There's a perfectly horrible play at the Westport Playhouse right now - well done, great set, lighting,
costumes, acting, but the play is about a really awful family system and when one gets to the end of
it, there's a compulsion to run, like one of the actors in the first scene, to purge... The play is called
"Time of My Life," by Alan Ayckbourn. He's a writer the Playhouse is fond of, and under Director
John Tillinger a team of fine actors has been assembled as a cast made in heaven to flesh out the

The play is interesting, in terms of its structure. It starts at a mid-point and runs backward in time
with flashbacks, and forward with flashfronts, until the audience gets the picture. The trouble is that
the picture, once got, is dreadful.

Ayckbourn's situation comedy, "Relatively Speaking," was much admired, and a sell-out last season
at the Playhouse. A lot of the humor in "Time of My Life" depends on gimmicks. The setting is in a
restaurant - all the action takes place in that restaurant - where one actor (Jason Antoon ) plays the
owner, several waiters, and the slop-guy in clever routines that at first get laughs and by the end get
boring. That's true with much of the dialect, too. The father of this morbid clan (Paxton Whitehead) is
apoplectic when he learns that his wife cuckolded him just once twenty years in the past. When he
first has that reaction it's funny; by what seems like the fifteenth replay it's not funny and it is boring.
But much of the second act rests on that gimmick, along with others that have to do with too much
alcohol. The oldest son (James Waterson) and his off and on wife (Geneva Carr) are stuck with
routine gags (he's always late - she gets served the wrong water) and dialogue that rehearses why
their marriage will be better if they stay separated. The youngest son (Carson Elrod) and his girl
friend (Seana Kofoed) are also burdened with improbable comic situations that get tired quickly. And
Laura, the mother and wife of the clan (Cecilia Hart), as her character is peeled away, is seen to be
really unpleasant.

I'm trying to think to whom I could say, "you ought to see this play." Lines in my head - 'Sally - you'd
like "Time of My Life." Your marriage never held together very well.' Or 'Hey Bill - you'll love "Time of
My Life." Alcohol was always too big a feature in your family, wasn't it?" Or 'Joe - there's a play at
Westport Playhouse right now that takes a page right out of your life with mama.'

If the show is meant to be a confrontation - the condemnation of a whole generation, like "Death of a
Salesman," maybe it's got a point. But it doesn't come across like that. It comes across as a black
comedy, that gets less comic as it rolls on.

And it raises other questions, like what is the role of the Westport Playhouse in this rich and varied
region filled with good theater? Given the many choices available, in New Haven, Stamford, and
Bridgeport, what's the role of Westport going to be? If it's going to live up to its own history, its
program might have to include content that enriches.

Tom Nissley for the Ridgelea Reports

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