The Time of Your Life

Rated 3.0 A California writer, born around 1900 and reared in an agricultural valley. Moved to the coast as a young man, living the portside bohemian life in glorious poverty. Wowed the East Coast establishment in the 1930s, by winning the Pulitzer Prize.Steinbeck, right? Well, yeah. But another writer also fits the description—William Saroyan, a proud son of Fresno’s Armenian community, a denizen of San Francisco’s Embarcadero and a winner of the Pulitzer in 1939 for his play The Time of Your Life.

Saroyan hasn’t become a cottage industry as has Steinbeck, and The Time of Your Life has suffered some neglect. Why? For starters, it has 26 parts—trimmed a bit in this production—and we live in an era of cost-conscious, three-handers. And Saroyan’s mix of sentimentality, working-class optimism and colorful characterization has made the play a period piece. People talk like Dashiell Hammett’s hard-boiled detectives, who sprang from San Francisco in the same era. This waterfront tale, set in a bar, involves a longshoreman who’s also an intellectual; a directionless drunk who does noble deeds, repeatedly; and the proverbial hooker with a heart of gold.

This production features marvelous scenes by the several actors with professional backgrounds, including director Ed Claudio as fibbing “Kit Carson”; Anthony D’Juan as a wannabe comedian who can’t get a laugh; and Martin Lain as the wry bar owner, a character who undoubtedly served as a model for Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca. When they’re on, this show earns a “Well Done” rating.

That level of execution isn’t always sustained by the less-experienced actors; they do fine, but we’re talking community theater.

Still, it’s a worthy show, and Claudio deserves credit for dusting off Saroyan’s script, which retains a lot of period charm. The better scenes will stay with you long after you have left the theater.