"Time of My Life"
Westport Country Playhouse, Westport
For Alan Ayckbourn fans, any offering of the British playwright is an occasion for joy. But not every play by such a prolific writer (7l full-length plays since 1959) can be expected to match his best efforts.
Such is the case with his current piece at the Westport Country Playhouse—his 1992 comedy “Time of My Life.” Though this comedy has many of the recognizable Ayckbournisms, it never reaches the hilarious heights of, say, an earlier one, “The Norman Conquests.”
“Time of My Life” deals, as usual, sharply but affectionately, with British upper-middle-class family relationships—parents and children, husbands and wives. The clan consists of an overbearing mother, a blustering, ineffectual father, and two cowed sons—one a coddled favorite, the other ignored. The younger women on the periphery also suffer her high-handed treatment. Along the way are two troubled marriages and an engagement destined for destruction.
It all takes place in an Italian restaurant the family has frequented for years, focusing on the matriarch’s birthday. As Ayckbourn is often preoccupied with the nature of time, “Time of My Life” moves freely in the past, present and future, though not necessarily in that order. In his other plays, his high-handed treatment of time was intriguing, but this time around it merely makes for confusion. In fact, it takes time to realize that each couple functions in different periods of time.
Despite the play’s problems, John Tillinger directs with skill and gets solid performances from his cast. Cecilia Hart is chillingly effective as the mother Laura. Fortunately for Hart, she has the juiciest lines and delivers them with lethal thrusts. The ever-reliable Paxton Whitehead is a proper foil as her husband. As to family, James Waterston never misses a beat in his sharply-defined portrayal of the elder son, while Carson Elrod, as the younger, brings to his very physical performance the antics of a clown. The women in their lives are most appealing—Geneva Carr as a victimized wife and Seana Kofoed as a ditzy would-be wife. Dialect coach Stephen Gabis has worked miracles with these players, and the British inflections come across authentically. Finally, the stream of Italian waiters are all played by Jason Antoon with enthusiasm but far too broadly. He should tone it down, though his lightning-like change of hair styles, costumes and personalities is impressive.
In all, the Playhouse offers a pleasant evening’s entertainment (thanks to the cast) and, though not his best, a taste of Ayckbourn.
-- -Irene Backalenick
April 7, 2008