Time of My Life
Written by Alan Ayckbourn, Direction & Scenic Design by David J. Miller, Costume Design by Fabian Aguilar, Lighting Design by Chris Fournier, Sound Design by Walter Eduardo
CAST (in alphabetical order): Maureen Adduci (Laura Stratton), Michael Steven Costello (Gerry Stratton), Gene Dante (Calvinu/Tuto/Aggi/Dinka/Bengie, the waiters), Margarita Martinez (Stephanie Stratton), Glen Moore (Glyn Stratton), Evan Sanderson (Adam Stratton), Ellen Soderberg (Maureen)
Performances through March 3 at Zeitgeist Stage Company, Boston Center for the Arts, Plaza Black Box Theater, 539 Tremont Street, Boston, MA; Box Office 617-933-8600 or www.zeitgeiststage.com.
Over the course of three weeks, I have been on a bit of an Alan Ayckbourn binge, seeing a trio of his plays at three different theaters. Most recently, I sat ringside at Time of My Life, the Zeitgeist Stage Company’s third production of the prolific British playwright’s work. With the Plaza Black Box Theater set designed like a contemporary restaurant and a handful of cabaret tables for front-row audience members, Director/designer David J. Miller gives a new dimension to dinner theater (he even wheels around a dessert cart at intermission) and proves that good things happen in threes.
Time of My Life introduces Gerry Stratton and his family who are celebrating his wife Laura’s 54th birthday at their favorite restaurant, Essa de Calvi. After the initial cacophony of everyone talking over and across each other, first impressions of each character start to emerge, but the opening scene is merely prologue, foreshadowing the dramatic goings-on within this troubled family. While Gerry and Laura remain in the present at the large, central table after the dinner, each of their sons is dispatched to an adjacent wing of the stage where they play out their scenes with their significant others. Elder son Glyn and his wife Stephanie move forward in time on one side of the set, while younger son Adam and his fiancée Maureen roll back the clock on the opposite flank. The common ingredients in each grouping are the hovering presence of one of the restaurant’s colorful waiters and the constant stream of food and drink they provide.
The senior Strattons rehash the evening and discuss their sons before detouring into more dangerous territory, eventually sharing secrets that might better remain undisclosed. Michael Steven Costello’s Gerry is, at first glance, the good-natured paterfamilias, happy and proud to be fêting his wife, but he reveals the character’s shady underbelly and jealous nature as the story unfolds. Maureen Adduci employs a markedly different persona as this Laura than when she played Laura Bush in Zeitgeist’s Tiny Kushner last fall. Granted, it is her birthday and the dinner party is about her, but Laura Stratton is overbearing and Adduci delivers her dialogue virtually dripping with haughtiness and an air of superiority.
At the next table, Glyn (Glen Moore) and Stephanie (Margarita Martinez) struggle to be civil with each other in the face of his infidelity and her coldness born of suspicion. To complicate matters, Glyn is dealing with a failing business and feels the stress of the promise he made to his parents to curb his philandering. Moore makes the gradual transformation from smooth, confident operator to frazzled, insecure hired hand by adjusting his posture and his gait, adopting a hangdog expression, and deteriorating fashion choices. On the flip side, Martinez loses her angry stiffness and helplessness as Stephanie’s fortunes improve when she begins to radiate authority and competence. Her wardrobe perks up, too, from loose-fitting, nondescript styles, to a figure-hugging, navy blue power suit.
Only Adam (Evan Sanderson) and Maureen (Ellen Soderberg) portray any semblance of affection amongst the couples, but their immaturity and rebelliousness are a toxic recipe for love. Once we learn the outcome of their affair, it is bittersweet to watch them travel back to their initial meeting which resulted from a confluence of innocent misunderstandings. The actors portray the discomfort inherent in the relationship between the two – Adam, to the manor born, and Maureen from the wrong side of the tracks, or the canal district, as it were – as well as the giddiness of their budding romance.