BWW Review: The William's Project's TIME OF YOUR LIFE Goes a Step Beyond
Dear Readers, you've often heard me extoll the prowess and brilliance of The Williams Project. Just last week I raved about how dedicated and tight their ensemble was when presenting the other show they have running in repertory, "Small Craft Warnings". But now that insanely talented ensemble has come in with William Saroyan's 1939 Pulitzer Prize winning drama "The Time of Your Life" and taken things a step beyond simply performing the play, but deconstructing it with a rotating ensemble.
We're back in that bar they've created in Washington Hall but this time it's Nick's Bar. Similar premise, the denizens of a local bar and a deep dive into their lives, hopes and dreams. We mostly focus on Joe (Grant Chapman), a regular in the bar who somehow has lots of money. He spends his days drinking, ordering his lackey Tom to run crazy errands for him, and using his wealth to meddle in the lives of those around him. On this particular night we meet Kitty Duval, a prostitute with dreams of being an actress, Dudley, a young man in love, McCarthy, a well-read longshoreman and his best friend Krupp, a cop who hates his job, "The African" (Kemiyondo Coutinho), an older, quiet man who witness it all and occasionally dispenses his own brand of wisdom, and many more.
You may have noticed that I only mentioned two out of this brilliant ensemble in association with their characters. Well, the reason for that is twofold. First, that the remaining six ensemble members (Madeleine Lambert, Lee LeBreton, Lamar Legend, Richard Proleau, Max Rosenak, and Dedra D. Woods) not only portray the myriad characters remaining but they're never certain who they'll be playing as the show goes on. The play begins like normal, a straightforward telling of the tale, but as the evening wears on, director Ryan Guzzo Purcell slowly deconstructs the moments by shifting locations as well as who's playing who. When we return from the first interval, we see that, aside from Chapman and Coutinho, the characters we've seen are now played by other actors. Why not? They're all amazing and can play anything. But then as we delve further into the chaos, Chapman's meddlesome character goes even further and commands them all to switch parts mid-scene. So, one moment we may have Lambert killing it as an old Indian Fighter, Kit Carson, but then Rosenak takes over with his own spin. And then Legend, then Woods, and so on. OK, so they switch parts, so what? Well they're given the new roles by drawing a name from a bucket, switching a hat and they're off! The bar is littered with script pages as at times they need a bit of line help, but who wouldn't?
All of this just spotlights how tight and incredible this group is as they each sink their teeth into all the characters, yet we're never confused as to who is who. Each one showing just how amazing they are, changing characters at the drop of a hat. That's not to say the other two are slacking. Coutinho manages a stunning intensity making her few lines say volumes. And Chapman as the puppet master of the group shows a stunning vulnerability even as the one in control.
Innovative shows like this are why we go see theater, to be told a story in a thrilling way we never expected. And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give The Williams Project's production of "The Time of Your Life" an absolutely riveted WOW! You certainly want to see their other show, "Small Craft Warnings", still running in rep with this one but their latest offering is a must see! Go get your tickets now. NOW! Sadly, you only have a week left.
"The Time of Your Life" from The Williams Project performs at Washington Hall through August 25th. For tickets or information visit them online at www.thewilliamsproject.org.