NORTH COAST REP. OFFERS UP A BIT OF FLUFF IN BERNARD SLADE’S VINTAGE “SAME TIME NEXT YEAR”
“The Times They Are A Changin.” Over the course of twenty five years, people change; love grows deeper; people fall out of love, grow older and values change. In Bernard Slade’s bitter sweet love story, his 1975 “Same Time, Next Year”, starring the real husband and wife team of Bruce Turk as George and Katie MacNichol as Doris, and directed by NCR’s artistic director David Ellentsein the couples’ once every year clandestine rendezvous brings with it a new revelation with each passing year.
The play unfolds every five years starting in 1951 in a comfortable Spanish style (Marty Burnett) motel room in Northen Ca. They met over a steak dinner. No, they were not dining together, he sent a steak over to her table as a gesture. I guess people fall in love over less expensive food choices, but that’s the story we’re stuck with. It doesn’t end there, however. It moves into an overnight tryst and then to a weekend long date, one laced with guilt laden explanation as to why and how it’s going to work out.
The two are so uptight that first morning when they awake, and after a night of lovemaking Doris wraps herself up in the bed sheets crawls out of bed and gets dressed in the bathroom. That doesn’t stop them, however from meeting at the same time and same place each year.
No big surprise. The next scene, five years later (we know because there is a hint hanging on the piano: ‘5 year anniversary’ in bold red letters) the clothes and wigs have been updated from 1956’s to ‘70’s (Elsa Benzoni and Peter Herman) with 50’s dresses with garter belts and crinoline slips to hipster beads and suede vests to slacks and tops for Doris with an assortment of wigs noting the hair styles and slight noticeable changes in the styles of George’s clothes, the lapel widths, shirt designs and a slight graying at the temples.
They talk, they sleep they exchange little stories about their lives, their mates and they make love. In fact, in that time George and Doris made love together one hundred and thirteen times. Now most married couples, at least the ones I know don’t keep track of their lovemaking, but here’s the scoop: Doris and George are married but not to each other, they are carrying on a ‘secret’ love affair behind their spouse’s backs and George is a wiz at numbers.
Slade is clever enough to toss in just the right amount of pathos, family illness, the Vietnam War, the drug culture, death of a child, near death of a spouse. He balances the serious with the light and frivolous, and to the actor’s credit, they manage it with ease making the most of the situations and giving it and them a measure of credibility.
Over the course of the years she grows more self-assured, finishes college, opens a thriving business and learns to be content with her husband, George. On the other hand, he grows more serious as his business grows and he sees Doris changing, but not at all to his liking.
Both manage to rein in their differences as they become more in tune with each other, older, comfortable and the shifting attitudes of the times. Their personal triumphs and disappointments are met with understanding and love as they share stories, empathize and commiserate; he even helps with the birth of her fourth child in one of the funniest scenes in the play.
Slade’s play ran on Broadway from 1975 to 1978 with over 1,453 performances and was later (some might remember) made into a movie starring Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn. It earned her a Best Actress Award. Slade also created “The Partridge Family,” “The Flying Nun “and “Bewitched”. Now that would be fun to see. But more than morals changing and with everything going viral, in retrospect its difficult not to wince at the dialogue, gender roles, reference to race and religion (“You must be Jewish… because they’re always feeling guilty.) and corny jokes. As I said it's vintage, but not necessarily good.
To that end, with Covid in the picture and theatres having to reinvent themselves “Same Time Next Year” with husband and wife playing against each other, the choice of this two person play makes sense at least as a filler.
I can't help comparing the excellent and intense past production of "Necessary Sacrifices” and "Same Time". It is a bit like comparing apples and oranges, you can’t. That’s not to take anything away from the fine acting of Turk and MacNichol, and perhaps a little levity is what folks at home want to see.
I may be an old fuddy- duddy, but give me something fresh and new and gutsy and I’m a happy camper.
“Same Time Next Year” will be streaming on line through Nov. 15th. @northcoastrep.com
North Coast Rep. 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive #D, Solana Beach, Ca.
Photos: Aaron Rumley
Props: Philip Roth