Reviewed by Ilana Novick
It’s 1939, depression-era San Francisco, and the country’s preparing for war. Of course, you’d never know it from the looks of The Time of Your Life, where Nick’s Bar is the center of the universe. Mysteriously wealthy slacker Joe (Mike Mendiola) spends each day at his regular table, ordering glasses of champagne and sending his lackey, the sweet, dim-witted Tom (Matthew DeCapua) to run errands. And then there’s Kitty Duvall (Daniela Mastropietro), a prostitute with dreams of being an actress, who falls in love with Tom. Forget war: the central conflicts of The Time of Your Life are more personal. Will Kitty and Tom be able to marry? Will menacing policeman Blick (Dan Berkey) shut down Nick’s Bar for allowing prostitutes inside? However, these undeveloped plots aren’t pressing, and the play is ultimately as slow as the bar’s liquored patrons.
It takes a very magnetic actor to make Joe stand out amidst the parade of drinkers coming in and out, to make him equally handsome and mysterious. Mendiola is almost up to the job—he has a faraway gaze, a hint of sadness in his eyes, and a charming, bitter laugh. It's heartbreaking to watch Joe look at Tom and Kitty, to give them his blessing for the kind of love that—for reasons he won't say—he can't have, and Mendiola’s grief is palpable in his expressions. And yet, his tendency is to direct his intense stare toward a distant point the audience can't see, rather than to Kitty, whom he claims to care deeply about, or even to Tom or Nick.
As Kitty, Mastropietro is a credible hooker with a heart of gold, ready to out-sass Blick when he tries to arrest her, but also prone to burst into tears whenever she is reminded of her childhood. Berkey is sleazy enough as Blick (practically fondling Kitty even as he threatens to arrest her, getting into fights with random drunks simply because he doesn’t like their clothing), so that when he finally loses a fight, it feels like the good guys have won. Unfortunately, it’s the only moment when the stakes are high enough for the audience to be concerned. Before that, the pace is too slow and the plot too crammed with minor characters for the audience to find a reason to care.
The Time of Your Life (2 Hours, 20 minutes, one intermission)
The Storm Theater (145 West 46th Street)
October 3-November 1 Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30pm and Saturdays at 2:00pm. Additional performance Monday, October 6 at 7:30pm.
Tickets are available at http://www.smarttix.com/, 212-868-4444.