Though Point Park Conservatory Theatre's production of The Time of Your Life has several fine features, it must be said that by evening's end you do feel as if you've become a grave-robber.
William Sayoran's play, winner of a 1939 Pulitzer, is set in a San Francisco dive bar into which walks an endless parade of colorful locals; each has a brief scene, some lasting just a few lines, then disappears. There are a few central characters -- a mysterious rich man, his lackey and the bartender/owner. But the entire show is layered with the accumulated dust of 70 years, and it takes Herculean effort to muscle your way past the theatrical changes of the past seven decades and enter into the world of the play.
Sayoran, I think, was trying to locate a specific poetical American patois. And maybe, in 1939, he achieved that ... but I gotta tell you that in 2011, this is one hell of a talkie play in which each character sounds exactly like another. Even more amazing is that for a script with 26 (!) characters, almost nothing happens ... so it's two-and-half hours of stasis buried under an unending stream of -- to be frank -- blather.
I imagine this student company must be twice as flummoxed as I am by this deadly, dreary play ... but god love them if they didn't sail through with determination. Ryan Novakovich, it seems to me, comes closest to capturing the period and the style of the piece without overplaying. Director John Amplas has tried to overcome the leaden quality of the script with a lot of extraneous movement in the background ... I understand why he made the choice but, ultimately, so much repetitive upstage business makes a tedious play even more frustrating.
I salute Michael Thomas Essad's fine set design: A seedy bar never looked so compelling. And Don DiFonso's veritable truckload of costumes for this enormous cast goes a long way toward defining the milieu without ever overpowering it.
Still, I think it's safe to say that this is one play that's best left for dead.
The Time of Your Life continues through Sun., Feb. 6. Pittsburgh Playhouse, 222 Craft Ave., Oakland. 412-621-4445 or www.pittsburghplayhouse.com