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Theater Mon Sep 21 2015

The Artistic Home Presents The Time of Your Life: A Production to Remember 1939

The Time of Your Life at The Artistic Home
Joe (Scott Westerman, right) is egged on by Kit Carson (Frank Nall) as he engages in a gum-chewing contest with Tom (Jae K. Renfrow, left). Photo by Tim Knight.

Walking into The Artistic Home theater, you literally enter Nick's saloon in San Francisco. Large lettering identifies the bar owner, playing cards are set out, light illuminates the back window. It was clear that each prop and scenic detail had been strategically set up to bring the audience back to 1939. In the 45-seat theater, I felt like I was a part of the production.

The actors brought to life exactly what I had read in the script just hours before. The emotion portrayed in Kitty Duvall and the transformation of Joe throughout the performance were truly how I pictured it. I believe that the playwright, William Saroyan, would approve this rendition of his work. The details, even down to the newspapers displaying "The San Francisco Chronicles" masthead in 1939-style font, were exemplary.

The actors gave thought-provoking performances, carefully exhibiting their own stories in Nick's saloon. The lighting amplified the holds and the musical elements were breath-taking, with extreme talent on the piano and "Missouri Waltz" echoing throughout the play. Blackout transitions with music held true to the romantic nature of an original performance from the 1930s.

The Time of Your Life takes us through the story of the main character Joe and his struggle with his dream in life, all the way to what he does when he buys a gun and encounters an unkind fellow and teams up with a cowboy. He takes us through the realities of rescuing a prostitute, encouraging his errand boy Tom to fall in love while exposing us to the varied personalities in Nick's bar. Through Nick's open-minded mentality, letting people succeed through providing them a chance to be themselves in his bar, we see the characters develop as we sympathize with each one.

A shoutout goes to director Kathy Scambiatterra, producer Kristin Collins, scenic designer Kevin Hagan and lighting designer Claire Sangster for a masterful production. The actors also deserve a standing ovation especially Kathryn Acosta as the emotionally disturbed "streetwalker" Kitty, Julian Hester's stand-out performance as love-struck Dudley R. Bostwick and Frank Nall entrancing us as Kit Carson. Finally, Scott Westerman delivered an outstanding performance as Joe.

The Time of Your Life originally was produced by the Theatre Guild and was the first play to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and New York Drama Critics' Circle Award. Opening in October of 1939, it was noted not only for its dramatic and comedic success but also for its direct connection with the life of playwright William Saroyan. Saroyan tended to expose optimism despite external situations, creating his stories from deeply personal experiences. In The Time of Your LIfe, Nick's saloon was based on a real-life cafe that Saroyan visited consistently. Saroyan was an Armenian American who wrote plays and stories about the Armenian immigrant experience. Classified with American authors such as John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway, he was a prominent literary figure of the time.

The Time of Your Life will be showing at The Artistic Home, 1376 W. Grand Ave., through October 25. Shows are Thursdays at 7:30pm, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 3pm. Tickets are available for Thursdays/Sundays with a suggested donation of $28 and for Fridays/Saturdays performances with a suggested donation of $32. To reserve tickets, call 866-811-4111 or visit www.theartistichome.org.

 
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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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