Same Time, Next Year
Also see Fred's review of Southern Comfort
Doris and George, partaking in successful marriages to others, find themselves in northern California in a country innpassionately drawn to one another during a weekend in 1951. Yes, this is adulterous, but the protagonists exchange information about spouses back home, children ... George is a CPA, a conservative man who feels quite guilty about leaving his wife and children. Doris, Italian and Catholic, did not graduate from high school. Both of them enjoy their tryst and agree to meet, yearly, for a rendezvous. This could go on and on and on.
Designer Randall Parsons, utilizing wooden beams to great advantage, provides a warm, cozy interior setting for the show. Complete with a large and inviting bed, couch, steps upward to a piano, rear windows, and lamps, the choices are fine and fitting. As the action, so to speak, progresses for two decades, costumer Charles Schoonmaker effectively outfits the actors in time-appropriate garb. Check out May's wardrobe as a hippie- perhaps flower child.
The problem with the early segment of the play is that it feels just too dated. The jokes are not all that amusing and one begins to wonder whether if it all is or is not satirical. The individuals get together every four or five years, enjoy sex at times, and exchange personal stories. Director Kyle Fabel casts a husband and wife team to play these two who enjoy infidelity and it works very, very well. May and Adkins obviously understand one another, and this is most positive as they traverse Slade's territory.
The resonance and relevance of the comedy (with drama) increases after intermission. Doris, in 1966 or so, has gone back to school at Cal Berkeley. On a certain Monday evening, theatergoers laughed loudly when May appeared in jeans, beads, wig, headband and so forth. She now calls George, who is nerved-out, "establishment." We learn that his son was killed in Vietnam and the evening turns suddenly serious.
Five years later, roles have shifted. George has seemingly engaged in every hip therapy possible and claims he now makes his living by playing "cocktail piano at a singles bar in the valley." One muses about the future of this couple and its possible outcome. When they meet, finally, in 1975, George, having lost his wife, Helen, asks Doris to marry him.
The original 1975 Broadway production starred Ellen Burstyn and Charles Grodin. When the film version was released three years later, Burstyn once again played Doris opposite Alan Alda's George. Many might recall the movie.
The Berkshire Theatre Group's production team tries hard to support Same Time, Next Year. Adkins, a seasoned performer who has appeared in New York City and at many regional theaters, is solid. May, who was a 20 plus year mainstay at Shakespeare & Company (A Winter's Tale, Jack and Jill and many more), demonstrates her versatility in Stockbridge. The issue is this: Slade's script, intriguing and redemptive when first actualized decades ago, does not fully sustain now. Fortunately, the mid-1960s through mid-1970s component fares far better than earlier years. Thematically, the characters are two people who cheat while married, still care deeply about respective partnersand enjoy/maybe even love one another as Doris and George. There you have it.
Same Time, Next Year continues on The Fitzpatrick Stage in Stockbridge, Massachusetts as part of Berkshire Theatre Group's summer season through August 10th. For tickets, call (413) 997-4444 or visit www.BerkshireTheatreGroup.org.
- Fred Sokol