This production of William Saroyan's "The Time of Your Life" offers so many small pleasures that it's forgivable that it never quite delivers a big one. Exceptionally well cast -- no easy feat for an ensemble piece of 24 characters -- and with a solid anchor of a performance by Tony-winner John Glover, the evening is a stellar acting showcase.

This production of William Saroyan’s “The Time of Your Life” offers so many small pleasures that it’s forgivable that it never quite delivers a big one. Exceptionally well cast — no easy feat for an ensemble piece of 24 characters — and with a solid anchor of a performance by Tony-winner John Glover (“Love! Valour! Compassion!”), the evening is a stellar acting showcase. What it never quite manages, though, is to make a case for reviving the play, which comes off as an intriguing, pleasant and watchable curio, but feels firmly stuck in the past.

The denizens of the San Francisco bar that provides the setting for the 1939 play don’t do much more than philosophize. Fortunately, director Gene Reynolds has populated the place with a talented lot, all of whom seem to be enjoying themselves. In Glover, he has an actor intelligent enough to make the existential querying come off as more than pure self-indulgence. Much of the play involves Glover’s Joe, a wealthy guy who prefers to spend his time in this waterfront dive rather than the upscale joints he can afford, observing and engaging with the various folks who wander in and out.

Particularly appealing is Greg Lewis as Nick, the owner of this honky-tonk, always willing to do what he can to assist the down-and-out, especially those who have a degree of talent. Much of the play is underscored nicely by onstage pianist Eric Meyersfield, who plays a guy who comes in for a job cleaning up but finds his skill at the keyboard more in demand. Steve Owsley portrays an untalented comedian who dances through much of the evening.

As a sad woman who finds a moment of hope with Joe, Julie Cobb makes a most pleasing mark. And Sirri Murad, as an Arab man who repeats the most famous line of the play, “No foundation, all the way down the line,” manages to make this pronouncement more and more meaningful as the evening progresses.

But among this large ensemble, the one who really enlivens the proceedings whenever he enters is Al Mancini, who plays a fanciful storyteller who personifies the American spirit. His is a delicious performance, a bit on the corny side but extremely likable.

The 1939 play won the Pulitzer for drama, and it’s certainly a worthy work for restaging. While director Reynolds mines Saroyan’s sunny sentimentalism and educes fine acting, this production never takes that leap into the next realm of artistic engagement. He gets the right gentle, genteel tone, he doesn’t capture the whimsy of the play, its sense of inebriated dreaminess.

The Time of Your Life

Skylight Theater; 84 seats; $20

Production

A Camelot Artists presentation of a play by William Saroyan. Executive producer, Gary Grossman; producer, Kate Dritsas. Directed by Gene Reynolds.

Creative

Set, Robert F. Boyle; costumes, Eva Frajko; lighting, J. Kent Inasy; sound, David Bartlett. Opened Oct. 27, 2001, reviewed Oct. 28; closes Dec. 9. Running time: 2 HOURS, 40 MIN.

Cast

Newsboy - Matthew Morgan Scott
Drunkard - Tom Ayers
Willie - Isa Totah
Joe - John Glover
Nick - Greg Lewis
Tom - Will Potter/Jack Kyle
Kitty Duval - Tracy Silver/Renee Weldon
Dudley - Alex Craig Mann
Harry - Steve Owsley
Wesley - Eric Meyersfield
Lorene - Jodi Taffel
Blick - Monty Bane
Arab - Sirri Murad
Mary L - Julie Cobb
Krupp - Manuel E. Urrego
McCarthy - Ben DiGregiorio
Kit Carson - Al Mancini
Sailor - Michael Yavnieli
Elsie - Cheryl Dent
Killer - Kristina Kreyling
Street Walker - Kim Blair
Society Lady - Patricia Harty
Society Gentleman - Art Cohan
Cop - Johnny Ferretti
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