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Same Time, Next Year
a Comedy/Drama
CATEGORY :
by Bernard Slade

COMPANY : Stage Door Players [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Stage Door Players [WEBSITE]
ID# 4247

SHOWING : March 16, 2012 - April 08, 2012

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Twenty-five years of manners and morals are hilariously and touchingly played out in one of the most popular romantic comedies ever written about a love affair between Doris and George, who although married to other people, rendezvous once a year.

Featuring Bryan Brendle and Cara Mantella, show is directed by Tess Malis Kincaid.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Tess Malis Kincaid
Costume Design Jim Alford
Sound Design Dan Bauman
Wig Design George Deavours
Production Manager Courtney Loner
Stage Manager Marcie Millard
Scenic Design Chuck Welcome
Lighting Design John David Williams
George Bryan Brendle
Doris Cara Mantella
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REVIEWS

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Happily Ever After
by Dedalus
Thursday, April 12, 2012
4.0
Love stories are all well and good, but what happens after that final bow? What exactly goes into “happily ever after?” Bernard Slade has built a body of work that examines this very issue – his plays start where most romantic comedies end – two people have found true love (or not). Now what?

Mr. Slade’s examination of the effect of time on long-term relationships started with this very popular 1975 play. At rise, we discover George and Doris the “morning after” a one-night stand. It’s 1951, and both are married to other people, both seem to be nice folks who would “never dream about cheating.” Yet here they are. They find, to their utter embarrassment (and joy) that they are almost “soul mates,” that they find excitement and connection with each other that escapes their “every day marriages.” So, they agree to meet on the same weekend every year.

What follows is a collection of vignettes, six “mini-plays” each set five years apart during which their affair passes the “test of time” and appears to grow stronger with each passing year.

To be sure, there are a lot of “sit-com” elements here – each scene hits all the expected points of whatever era it embodies – fifties innocence and neuroses, sixties rebellion and establishment-conservatism, seventies self-actualization and “be-in-touch-with-your feelings” excesses. When George and Doris are “out-of-synch,” it seems to come from the writer’s plotting contrivance rather than the characters’ own logical progression. And the “tell a good and bad story about your spouse” set up is a blatant exposition device right out of the playwright’s bag of tricks.

Yet, Mr. Slade is an accomplished writer of sit-coms (he worked on “Bewitched” and created “Love on a Rooftop” – a “Barefoot in the Park” clone I thought only I remembered -- “The Flying Nun” and “The Partridge Family”). So the contrivances work, and the characters work. His point here seems to be that even when George and Doris are “out-of-synch,” their relationship transcends their differences, and they find they have just as much to offer each year, perhaps more.

In Stage Door’s marvelous production, Bryan Brendle and Cara Mantella breathe new life into these characters I’ve seen too often before (this has to be the tenth production of this play I’ve seen). He’s winning, even when he’s whining, and she defeats a series of successive wigs to create a real character who truly grows before our eyes – the mousy, squeaky-voiced housewife of 1951 believably grows into the flaky hippy of 1964 and the confident businesswoman of 1970.

Director Tess Malis Kincaid and Sound Designer Dan Bauman have overcome one of the inherent challenges of the script – keeping the audience’s interest during the necessarily long between-scenes costume and make-up changes – by giving us quick-cut sound bites that lead us from one year to the next – songs, commercials, TV and Movie clips – ANYTHING to “set the period.” And for the most part, it works really well – the “mini-breaks” weren’t too long, and I enjoyed how the clips were put together.

Chuck Welcome has designed and built a very impressive set – a “timeless” cottage bedroom suite with faux oak beams, fireplace, and large four-poster bed – it’s the perfect room for a weekend “getaway,” and served the play very nicely.

“Same Time, Next Year” was only the first of Mr. Slade’s plays to deal with relationships and time. There is a seldom-produced sequel, (“Same Time, Another Year”), which takes George and Doris into their eighties (and the 1990’s) and lets them face aging, problem-children, and their (finally) marriage to each other. “Romantic Comedy” looks at a long-term relationship between two playwrights, “Return Engagements” takes four couples at a Stratford Ontario bed-and-breakfast over the course of twenty years, and “Special Occasions” flashes back to show how a couple got to “here and now” from “there and then.” Taken as a body of work, it’s a varied look at ALL the different ways time (and constant companionship) can wreck or bolster a “happily ever after.” These plays aren’t afraid to tackle the petty irritations and accommodations that are part and parcel of relationships over time. And they constantly surprise – things that seem implied at one time become overt a decade or so later. Things that are minor in the beginning become monstrous in the middle (and vice versa). And time inevitably does what we expect time to always do – separate the couples who were truly meant to be together (all appearances to the contrary) from those that are just passing flings or momentary passions.

Some may argue that George and Doris are in a needlessly artificial situation – is it really a relationship if they only see each other one weekend a year? I would say yes. As far apart as George and Doris grow during the sixties, the fact that they come back together every year, the fact that they can’t be apart even when they ARE apart is critical here. They spend enough of their weekend NOT in bed that they become aware of (and tolerant of) each other’s idiosyncrasies, and the time apart can make new discoveries possible year after year.

And, it doesn’t hurt that, with Ms. Mantella and Mr. Brendle, we have a Doris and George we like spending time with, a Doris and George we cannot help but root for. It’s a measure of their success that I would like to see them tackle the “what happens next” pleasures of “Same Time, Another Year” (once they’re old enough for the roles).

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)


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