Just got back from seeing "The Time of your Life," a play by William Saroyan currently in production at the Seattle Rep. I saw the play a few years ago at Theater Schmeater, and I've become convinced that it is one of the best American plays of the 20th century. Of course, it's also a play that captures my personal philosophy - that since this life is all we get, we need to make the best of it, to find joy where we can.
As usual, the Rep poured money into the play, as if spending more would make it better. The director (Tina Landau - I saw her "Trojan Women" at UW about 7 years ago) tried to place the little bar where it all happens kind of in the context of the world around it. The set opened up to reveal the world behind the bar, with sailors, hookers, cops, dockworkers, etc., all milling around pretty much constantly as the main actors read their lines. I found this distracting. Worse, I felt insulted when the director insisted on stopping everything and putting a spotlight on a scene when she was trying to show that this was "a moment" and we needed to pay attention. To me, it was like she thought the words didn't speak for themselves. It was the same kind of feeling I get when I go to a museum and put the headsets on -- I felt talked down to.
I found it funny that seeing this over-production made me nostalgic about the first production I saw, in a dumpy little theater where every show is compromised by the huge support beams (old growth timber, not steel) that block the sightlines. But this once, the beams worked with the atmosphere of a down-and-out bar in old Frisco, and in the intimate environment the script glowed like a pearl. Ah. A lovely play, and a nice tonic after "1984" - I haven't regained my faith in humanity yet, but I do feel justified in attempting to enjoy what little life we get to live.