Off-Broadway Theater Review: TIME OF MY LIFE (written and directed by Alan Ayckbourn at 59E59)

by Dmitry Zvonkov on June 11, 2014

in Theater-New York

THE PRODUCTION RUNS LIKE CLOCKWORK, BUT SOME MAY SEE IT AS A WASTE OF TIME

Much mastery of theatrical craft is on display in Alan Ayckbourn’s staging of his play Time of My Life, which is part of the Brits Off-Broadway Festival at 59E59 Theaters. The performances are excellent, the direction sharp, the dialogue snappy, scenes flow, there are laughs, and the characters are well-rendered. Yet these positives can’t make up for the play’s tired ideas and lack of teeth. It’s missing some essential spark and by the last half hour of this two-and-a half-hour production I wanted to shout “Enough already! We get it!”

Russell Dixon, Ben Porter, and Sarah Parks in Alan Ayckbourn’s TIME OF MY LIFE, part of Brits Off Broadway at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Tony Bartholomew.

All the action takes place in one ethnic restaurant and begins at the end of a birthday dinner for Laura (Sarah Parks), a family’s aging matriarch. In attendance are her respected businessman husband Gerry (Russell Dixon), their elder son Glyn (Richard Stacey) and his wife Stephanie (Emily Pithon), and their younger son Adam (James Powell) and his companion Maureen (Rachel Caffrey). The waiters are all played by Ben Porter.

Richard Stacey and Emily Pithon in Alan Ayckbourn’s TIME OF MY LIFE, part of Brits Off Broadway at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Tony Bartholomew.

At first glance the group seems reasonably happy. But after Maureen runs to the toilet to vomit from overdrinking we begin seeing cracks in the façade. Laura is cold and overbearing; she’s indifferent to Glyn and dominates Adam, trying to manipulate him into dumping his low-class hairdresser girlfriend. Glyn and Stephanie, who seem to be all smiles, are in fact going through a period of reconciliation after Glyn’s affair, and all is not rosy with Gerry’s business, or between him and Laura. And apparently, despite all his protestations, Adam is incapable of getting out from under his mother’s yoke.

James Powell and Rachel Caffrey in Alan Ayckbourn’s TIME OF MY LIFE, part of Brits Off Broadway at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Tony Bartholomew.

Spouses are sometimes unhappy with each other. They occasionally betray one another other. They lie. Sometimes a wife will make sacrifices that go unnoticed, or for which she later resents her husband. Some mothers can not love their child. External pressure can poison a love affair. And sometimes we don’t appreciate our happiness until it’s gone. These are some of the themes of Mr. Ayckbourn’s play and they are all legitimate, but they have all been explored extensively in various media and with occasionally profound results. To make yet another such expedition worthwhile the author must have something personal and vital, and therefore new, to say. Time of My Life is a sound work and there’s nothing especially wrong with it, at least not from a technical standpoint. It’s just unnecessary.

James Powell and Ben Porter in Alan Ayckbourn’s TIME OF MY LIFE, part of Brits Off Broadway at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Tony Bartholomew.

photos by Tony Bartholomew

Time of My Life
Ayckbourn Ensemble
part of Brits Off-Broadway at 59E59 Theaters
scheduled to end on June 29, 2014
for tickets, call (212) 753-5959 or visit www.59e59.org

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