Time of My Life at SBCC
Alan Ayckbourn’s Tragicomedy Gets a Stellar Production
Borne on the impeccable comic timing of an outstanding cast, this dark drama nearly slips past the audience disguised as comedy. Yet it is carefully etched moments of realization and resignation that smolder in the memory after the final curtain and that brand this enigmatic portrait of family life a tragedy. And what’s more, the humorous aspects of Time of My Life only benefit from the persistence of opposing currents of anger and misery, thus making it a great choice for the SBCC Theater Group, capable of both capitalizing on existing strengths in comedy and significantly expanding the range of this distinguished company.
As Laura Stratton, Katie Thatcher creates a veritable Clytemnestra for the country club set. The 54-year-old wife of a successful businessman, Gerry (Jon Koons), and the mother of two grown sons, Glyn (Brian Harwell) and Adam (Josh Jenkins), this mother is unable to leave anyone alone. Laura initiates her first exhausting emotional tug-of-war with Glyn’s wife, Stephanie (Leesa Beck). After excoriating Maureen (Marisa Welby-Maiani), her son Adam’s fiancée and the most vulnerable guest at her fancy 54th birthday party, Laura turns her wrath on Stephanie when she rises to Maureen’s defense. The wit of Laura’s put-downs masks a deep-seated hostility toward all of the others except Adam, the family “baby” who receives the brunt of Laura’s equally stifling possessiveness.
As Glyn and Stephanie, Harwell and Beck present a series of changes that feel worthy of their own separate play. Beck shines in the scenes where Stephanie’s tenderness and sensitivity even to the monstrous Laura’s plight are foregrounded, while Harwell excels at portraying Glyn’s latent anger and insecurity. Echoes of dysfunctional family behavior ring when Gerry blows his top at what is perhaps Laura’s most pernicious provocation, the play’s drawing room equivalent to ancient tragedy’s catastrophic revelations.
As Adam, Jenkins embodies the passive side of the Stratton polarity, constantly appeasing the volatile Maureen, who has entered his privileged life through a double case of mistaken identity. Welby-Maiani brings the tough but innocent Maureen to life, seducing Adam Stratton with a succession of nutty wigs and an enviably joyous spontaneity. No review of Time of My Life would be complete without mentioning the marvelous turns accomplished by Ed Lee, who manages to deliver a series of performances that lift unfortunate stereotypes of the Chinese into sensitive, even poignant humanity.