By Adam Collier
Though I took my seat early, the house lights still up in the theatre, there were already two actors onstage.
One was a balding man that appeared close to middle age, behind a bar, pushing around a cloth. The other, a well-dressed older man, sat at a table. He seemed content there, staring off into space.
I found the tableaux absorbing. I mentioned as much to my theatre partner. Her hum seemed to agree.
It felt like it took a good ten-minutes for the house lights to come down from the (already faint) intensity with which they began, while lights for the stage rose gently. The design by Louise Guinand was warm, soft. Ensconcing the bar setting like a big, safe duvet.
As my partner said at the intermission, “I just had to, y’know … let go, and let myself get into it.”
Even after that opening, it took a little while to get used to the leisurely style of The Time Of Your Life. This probably has as much to do with how playwright William Saroyan devised the work, as its director, Albert Schultz.
At times, Mr. Saroyan keeps his thumb squarely on the tempo of the action. For example, Joe – the older man I describe above (played by Joseph Ziegler) – repeatedly plays a waltz that seems to slow down everything.
But I felt there was another reason too, that the action doesn’t pick-up much momentum.
In the first forty-five minutes or so, Mr. Saroyan introduces a huge cast of characters, and the action continuously transitions between them.
For example, in one sequence that seems no more than five-minutes long, the focus on stage jumps from a character named Dudley (Gregory Prest), calling a girl on the phone, to an exchange between the bar owner, Nick (Derek Boyes) and a piano player – “Plays better than Heifetz,” says Nick, “Heifetz plays the violin,” corrects Joe – named Wesley (Denzal Sinclaire), to a slow dance between an endearingly childish young character named Tom (Kevin Bundy) and a young woman named Kitty (Karen Rae).
I actually love this style, panning as it were, from one character to the next, the way Robert Altman did in his films.
But on the night I attended, the transitions were a bit jarring. Taking me out of the flow of the action.
To be fair though, I was attending the opening night of The Time Of Your Life. So the miniscule gaps, between where one or two characters finish a segment and another character begins one, will likely fade away as the production evolves with more performances.
Generally, my partner and I enjoyed the show. Though the plot is a bit wandering, the characters demonstrate real depth and insight into life. And the production values on display, including a set by Lorenzo Savoini and costumes by Dana Osbourne, are absolutely top notch (though this is more-or-less the norm for Soulpepper).
I’d recommend seeing The Time Of Your Life.
– The Time Of Your Life runs until April 16th at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts (55 Mill Street)
– The show starts at 7:30PM, Tuesday through Saturday. It runs about three hours, including an intermission.
– Tickets run between $45 and $60. Rush tickets run between $5 and $20.
– For more information, please see the Soulpepper website (Soulpepper.ca) or call 416-866-8666