“You won’t beat that machine!” is one of the opening phrases of the play The Time of Your Life. Playwright William Saroyan writes a play about the American Dream and the hardships of American’s in the early years of World War II. Set in San Francisco’s waterfront, the eve of the war is looming and the sentiments of engaging in this war blooms in the atmosphere.A bit like our time of age, Saroyan’s life in 1939 is reflected through the search of shelter and comfort during chaotic change. In our daily lives in America, we do find ourselves living in fear and this play offers the ability to question it, while giving a hopeful energy throughout the piece.
Hunter College’s production doesn’t seem to give up that idea throughout the play. The director Inés Braun incorporates this essence of hopelessness, hope and belief in human dignity. She uses the time period of America as a powerful hope of freedom. It is no question about the Great Depression of the 1930’s and she doesn’t seem to allow the audience to forget that this was happening outside of Nick’s Bar. She uses the bar as a symbolism of hope and home. The characters bring this idea of shutting the world when they enter this world and Inés clearly developed this atmosphere.
When a production like this takes place in a college, I do get a fear of bringing xenophobic ideas onto the campus. It is scary to see how a director, actor and designer try to execute these sentiments of America, in which still exists today. However, it seemed like although this play, being an existential play, the director, actors, and designers all knew how to take on this topic and I was proud to see how the audience saw America in the 1930’s by giving the audience that safe energy and meaningful kindness that still existed within the crisis.
I absolutely loved the costumes. The costume designers Deepsikha Chatterjee and Oriana Lineweaver make a fashion statement. They emphasize the fashion of the time period and make it clear who is who, and who is rich or not. The specificity of the costumes made it more visually appealing and I was able to picture the world of the play. It was almost like link to what was going to happen to whom on stage. The set designer Caitlyn Ayer executed a marvelous set. It was huge! The bar was a real bar, the doors, the color; you were transported into this world because of the set. The lights were so subtle and the ability to tell the time of day was clear. Ian Calderon delivers a troubled world through his world of lights. Although the designers were my favorite, the actors lived in this world as if it were their own. They get a standing ovation for their ensemble work. They worked so well all together and as a cast are a powerful group of people. The ending was my favorite! It was like watching Humphrey Bogart walk away in Casablanca.
Overall, it was a classic and beautiful piece of art.
The Time of Your Life runs from now until November 18th of 2017 at the Loewe Theatre in Hunter College.