By Beki Pineda
TIME OF MY LIFE. Written by Alan Ayckbourn; directed by Ian Gerber. Produced by Theater Company of Lafayette (Mary Miller Theater, 300 East Simpson St., Lafayette) through June 4. Tickets available at 800-838-3006 or www.tclstage.org.
Alan Ayckbourne likes to play fast and loose with time in this production. The evening opens and closes at the same birthday party. But before the evening is over, we’ve seen scenes leading up to the dinner and scenes that follow the lives of the various couples as a result of that dinner. A moment not unlike the final scene of OUR TOWN asks us if any of us are able to really appreciate the best times of our lives when we are actually living them. After that fateful night, nothing is the same.
Three couples attend the birthday dinner for Laura, thrown by her husband, Gerry. Their two sons—Glyn and Adam—attend with Glyn’s wife, Steph, and Adam’s brand-new girlfriend, Maureen. The party breaks up when the nervous Maureen drinks too much and gets sick. From there, flashing back and forth in time, we observe all three couples in crisis.
For a drama that closely observes human behavior under duress, this is a surprisingly funny evening. Maybe it’s because human behavior (observed by outsiders) is so comic. For instance, the scene that addresses how Adam and Maureen first met is hysterical. She is sitting in a restaurant alone waiting for a blind date when Adam arrives at the same restaurant to interview a prospective office manager. A waiter suspicious of women alone in restaurants adds to the confusion of mistaken identities.
A strong and committed cast makes this the most enjoyable play I’ve seen at TCL since DEAD MAN’S CELL PHONE and BECKY’S NEW CAR. Darlene Grandy and David Fenerty as the parent couple enjoy the easy familiarity and contempt of the long married. A startling revelation sets their lives on a new course at the dinner. Real-life married couple Joe and Erica Illingworth play the older son and his wife, who have just reconciled after his philandering broke them apart. Erica brings a quiet, long-suffering strength to Steph that provides a strong counterpart to Joe’s pompous and self-important Glyn. The younger brother is played by Daniel Freeman, with Amanda Rhodes as his insecure girlfriend. Their scenes together were a little more erratic and jumpy; they did not display the ease of the older actors. The cast is completed by Jon Gregory, who plays the owner and all the waiters at the Essa de Calvi, the restaurant where all the scenes take place over luncheons, dates and special-occasion dinners.
The set designer, Chris Pash, came up with a clever look for the restaurant, which was completed by scenic painter Sarah Spencer. A huge red-and-white-checkered painted tablecloth starts in one corner and spreads across the floor, giving the whole set a festive look. The look is enhanced by forced perspective on the door and window, making everything just a little off kilter and unbalanced. The light design by Brian Miller keeps the audience directed to the current scene while allowing the other actors to enter and leave unobserved. The costumes by Kim deJager move us back and forth in time, and reflect the state of mind of those wearing them. Without creating a spoiler, one character goes from sweats in one scene to a sharp business suit in the next to illustrate the arc of that life.
Definitely an evening to enjoy in Lafayette. It was nice to see all the people out and enjoying the outdoor restaurants on a recent warm Friday night.
WOW factor: 8.5