It is October 1939 and Nick’s Pacific Street Saloon, Restaurant and Entertainment Palace in San Francisco is a safe haven from the cold streets outside. The CSUN production, “The Time of Your Life,” successfully creates a dim-lit saloon where an array of characters find solace in an era that is plagued by financial depression and talks of another world war.
The play, which is written by William Saroyan, creatively blends saloon patrons from all walks of life who are searching for acceptance and peace. The streetwalker with memories of a promising childhood, a rich man attempting to fill the void in his empty life, a novice comedian trying to get his big break, and a bar owner who just wants to provide a comfortable atmosphere to his customers are among the characters that successfully bring this play alive.
There is a sense of realism as the characters persistently move around the stage and interact with one another. The Newsboy (Stephanie Alkazian) frequently enters and exists the saloon doors loudly asking, “Newspaper mister?” Comedian/performer, Harry (Stephen Neiswanger), and pianist, Wesley (Tyrone Davis), attempt to entertain the saloon patrons with their catchy song and dance.
However, the viewer is mostly focused and drawn into the emotional storylines, which are articulately woven into this busy atmosphere.
In the most fascinating scene of the production, streetwalker Kitty Duval (Katherine Johnson) is tired of selling her body for a quick dollar and constantly remembering her childhood dreams of becoming a glamorous actress. Like the other characters, she realizes that she is alone and that this is not the life she had always wished for. She is helpless and emotionally fragile.
As she hysterically cries in her hotel room, two men she met at the saloon, Joe (Jozben Barrett) and Tom (Spencer Downie), visit her and attempt to console her. Tom, who quickly falls in love with Kitty, has great hopes of marrying her and providing a life that he believes she deserves. Tom’s wealthy friend, Joe, repeatedly assures Tom that he will provide money to make the matrimonial union happen.
“She’s like an angel. She’s not like the other streetwalkers,” said Tom, as he describes his love for Kitty.
In another scene, a young man named Dudley (Chris Estrada) desperately calls his former love Lorene (Aubrey Canfield) over and over again on the saloon’s payphone. Although Lorene is pessimistic of finding love and a secure life in the midst of a depression, Dudley is determined to win her heart. The more Dudley begs for Lorene to visit him at the saloon, the more the audience hopes that their love for each other will conquer the fears that are brought on by the situation of the time.
Although Saroyan’s play is genius, the set design really helps warp the audience into the late ’30s. In the beginning, the saloon set has stained glass windows, a bar, a piano, and wooden barstools. The detail is absolutely amazing as the audience can see streetwalkers walking back and forth through the saloon window. Later, the set literally revolves and turns into Kitty’s cheap-looking hotel room.
Much like the set design, the costumes add to the realism as well. The majority of the male characters wear collared shirts underneath vests and puff on cigars. The majority of the female characters, particularly the streetwalkers, wear tight long dresses with bob style hairdos.
“The Time of Your Life,” is more than just a play about a saloon in the ’30s, it is about the connection between people in a time of crisis. Nick’s saloon is not just a place where costumers buy alcohol beverages and smoke cigars; it is a place where people find hope, love and friendship.
The play will run on Oct. 10 and 11 at 7:30 p.m., Oct. 12 and 13 at 3 p.m., and Oct. 14 at 8 p.m. at the CSUN Little Theatre. For tickets information, call (818) 677-2488.
Do you have more to say than a comment? Want any feedback from the writer? Story ideas? Click on The Gripevine.