Apr 6, 2018
Reviewed by Malena Eljumaily
Cloverdale Performing Arts Center’s latest production is The Time of Your Life by William Saroyan. If the work of this author doesn’t immediately come to mind, that’s not surprising. Though this California native lived into the 1970’s, the bulk of his popularity in both stage and novels came during World War II. But this play has surprising relevance to the issues and tone of many debates going on today.
It’s November 1939 and Nick’s dockside bar in San Francisco is home to a motley band of drinkers, gamblers and armchair philosophers. Nick, as played by Bret Palmer, is a friendly papa whose caring shows as much in his face as his magnanimous actions. He is constantly taking in strays, but more important to the action are the fixtures in the bar. Joe (Damian Angel Salinas) sits regally at his table drinking champagne whenever he fancies and sending Tom (Darien Reed)off on multiple and sometimes curious errands. Most people are still feeling the effects of the Great Depression, but Joe seems to always be flush.
Another regular is Kitty (Jessika Cenicersos) whose exotic appeal (she claims to have danced in burlesque) has all the men in thrall. She now earns her living in a less reputable fashion, which will soon get her, and maybe a few others, into trouble. Also sitting on his bar stool is an unnamed Arab (Peter Immordino)spouting what appears to be a nonsensical refrain, but things aren’t always as they seem in this play.
Though we see less of them than others, a few more regulars are Krupp (Dee Dee Robbins) a cop assigned to police the Longshoremen strike and McCarthy (Danny Ray Bullington Jr.)a dockworker. These two have somehow managed to remain friends through all the violence and turmoil. The bar is also periodically visited by a street kid (Denali Lomonoco) selling papers and Wesley (Michele Holland) a drinker who can carry a tune.
Into this mix of regulars comes a very unfunny comedian played with enthusiasm by Jane Naseem Brelvi, and a streetwalker (Diana Grogg)who must be congratulated for playing piano for almost the entirety of the show. And then there’s the mystery woman, Mary, played with grace and subtlety by Nichelle Wyatt-Whyte. She and Joe have a heartfelt conversation and when she left, I was sorry to see her go.
Another newcomer is explorer and adventurer, Kit Carson (Harry Farmer.) Farmer’s performance is a treat to watch. Can all those tales be true? All these stragglers seamlessly fit into the rhythm and ethos of the bar. The one buttinsky is the neighborhood vice cop (Michael Kammerer)a righteous bully set on tormenting his enemies into submission when his oily persuasion doesn’t work.
Director Arte L. Whyte does an excellent job of managing all these characters. Each is given his or her own moment to shine. The set design by Yave Guzman is realistic and believable as a working-class bar in 1930’s San Francisco. Ditto for the costumes by Katie Kitchel.
Kudos must go to sound designer David Taber, who never allows the music to get so loud it interferes with the dialog.
Though there is quite an explosive ending to this play, it’s mostly about the characters, their hopes, their dreams, their unique journeys in this world. They have all found a place where they fit in and I’ll admit I felt right at home in Nick’s saloon. That feeling of inclusion is more elusive these days, so hurry on down to Cloverdale Performing Arts Center and into the big tent that is The Time of Your Life.
Running April 6, 7, 13 and 14 at 7:30pm, April 8 and 15 at 2pm.
Cloverdale Performing Arts Center
201 Commercial St, Cloverdale, CA 95425
Photos by John Gobeille
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