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The Time of Your Life 

Cross-casting William Saroyan's waterfront play doesn't make it more exciting

Wednesday, Dec 11 2002
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William Saroyan had a taste for stories and plays about the average Joe, and The Time of Your Life is his epic. It clocks in at nearly three hours and gives us one day in the life of a dive on the San Francisco waterfront, Nick's Place, in late 1939. Multi Ethnic Theater has moved the play forward 30 years, to 1969, and cross-cast most of the characters. Nick the bartender, here, is played by a woman, A.J. Davenport; the noisy longshoreman McCarthy is played by Bennie Lewis, who's black; and Willie the pinball wizard is played by Stephanie Miyashiro, in a wheelchair. Director Lewis Campbell has designed a brilliant set, consisting of a full bar with a working beer tap and an old pinball machine fitted with two waving American flags; unfortunately, he's entirely forgotten to direct his cast. Performances from Davenport and Miyashiro and many others (including T.J. Pierce as Joe, the pub's macher and unofficial king) are uniformly flat, and so is most of the play. Only Lewis and Vernon Medearis (playing a showy cowboy known as Kit Carson) know how to project their lines. Sometimes the show does manage to capture the sound and rhythm of a waterfront dive at 11 a.m., but it rarely gets more exciting.

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