Same Time, Next Year
By Bernard Slade
Directed by J.R. Stuart
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents are copyright © 2014 Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
Same Time, Next Year is the kind of warm and tender play that is fast becoming dated, originating from a time when a 24 yearlong infidelity could reasonably be presented as the basis of a genial romantic comedy. With its highly schematic construction and lean, funny dialogue, it is a well-written, sturdy entertainment. But does it speak to a contemporary audience except in rosy, nostalgic terms?
The story of George and Doris, a couple meeting one weekend each year for 24 years to indulge in an extramarital affair, tracks changing attitudes about social mores and male/female relationships during a period which covers tumultuous shifts in American culture, moving from the Eisenhower years, or Mad Men years, as they now seem to be known, through the swinging sixties and into the naval-gazing of the 1970’s. The cultural references are well-trod territory, and playwright Bernard Slade gets caught trafficking in the hoariest clichés of 1966 and 1971, with tie-dyed transformations and a catalog of every self-help fad of the time.
He does better with the earlier scenes and in developing moments of character interaction that break through the period details and touch on universal experience. Curiously for a play about cheating on your spouse, it is comforting and even a bit conservative in how George and Doris’ relationship journeys through the traditional milestones of a long-term marriage: the heat of new passion, friendship, sexual dysfunction, pregnancy and mortality. Each year the two ritually share stories of their spouses, one good and one bad, and by the end it has become clear that their annual assignation has become an essential tool in reinforcing their marriages.
Director J.R. Stuart stages things nicely, but the chief virtue of the tight structure and simple premise is that it forces attention on character and emotion, and it is in the sensitive and well-observed performances of his two cast members that the production resonates. Gary White plays George with little fuss and a steady core, even when revealing the character’s vulnerability, and this is maybe the best work I have seen from Tiffany Taylor, who creates a gentle but strong woman whose growth is a pleasure to watch. Unlike her co-star, she has more drastic changes in costume that include a couple of dodgy wigs along the way, but she grounds her character enough to never let such things remain a distraction.
The development of the two characters is what allows Same Time, Next Year to rise above the period perspectives that threaten to date the material. It is a play that may cause young people to scratch their heads, but for which people beyond a certain age will find familiarity and even a touch of wisdom. The median age of the opening night crowd made it the perfect audience, and they seemed to enjoy themselves.
Same Time, Next Year
September 11-13, 2014 @ 7:00pm
The Bards Town Theater
1801 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY 40205
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at the Louisville Visual Art Association during the days, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in TheatreLouisville, Louisville Mojo and his own website, The Arts Louisville, before merging operations and becoming Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com