Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Theatre Review: "Time of My Life" at Pittsburgh Public Theater-2nd May 2010

Alan Ayckbourn has become quite famous indeed for inventive and imaginative premises in his plays and for exploring the whoopsie-daisies between husbands and wives. He’s also known for writing a considerable amount of scripts, of which the 44th holds forth at Pittsburgh Public Theater. It’s Time of My Life from 1992. And, yes, this revolves around marriages. Starting from the present, one remains there, a second develops in the future and it looks as if past events were leading towards a third. The slightly unusual concept of bouncing time frames and the occasional, moderately amusing dialogue within them come well-served by seven polished actors from out of town, ably directed by a man with extensive Broadway credits.

It all takes place in one restaurant. Consequently much of what’s said is stated sitting down at tables, not the most dynamic choice for staging. But extra color is provided by having several waiters and the restaurant owner walk in and out and around. Plus the same actor serves those roles, a source of further entertainment.

Ayckbourn’s main characters don’t have much depth but they do seem believable and capably articulate. They don’t get involved in intelligent discussion, remaining primarily focused on themselves and their needs.

Laura’s 58th birthday is being celebrated by her husband Gerry and their two sons Glyn and Adam. Present too are Glyn’s wife Stephanie and Adam’s girlfriend Maureen. Soon we see how Glyn and Stephanie will interact at various times after the party. And we get to witness how Adam and Maureen began their relationship.

As Adam and Maureen, the most originally-conceived of the three couples, Jeffrey Withers and Sarah Manton make them distinctively appealing. Moreover Laurie Churba Kohn’s costumes for them look imaginatively clever and right.

The rest of the performers always remain convincing within the limitations of what Ayckbourn gave them. And director John Tillinger keeps it all lively, although, given the physical confines, he could have had them on their feet more often. The experience feels like a step back into time, to a time when Broadway shows didn’t have to be substantial or remarkably original and were, essentially, just good live theater.

Had this been locally cast, it could have offered something extra, a chance to connect to artists we already know and admire, to witness their versatility and watch them keep on developing their craft. I can think of several actors here who could have done as well. Maybe even better.

Time of My Life continues through May 16th at Pittsburgh Public Theater, 621 Penn Avenue, downtown. 412/ 316 1600 www.ppt.org

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