SAME TIME, NEXT YEARby Bernard Slade
Director - Stan Kelly
Set Designer - Kaori Imai
Set Dressing - Lindsey Humphries
Costume Designer - Stephen Wantland
Lighting Designer - Jack Piland
Sound Designer - Jason Rice
Properties Designer - Danielle
Designer - Roxi Taylor
Doris – Jennifer Duggins
George - Matthew Stepanek.
Reviewed Performance: 3/22/2014
Reviewed by Mark-Brian Sonna, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The story is about a couple, each married, that has an annual tryst once a year, hence the title. The play spans a quarter of a century beginning in 1951 and we see the characters evolve, age, adapt to the cultural changes, and develop a genuine love for each other, even though each is happily married. Starting with their first one-night stand, the six scenes revisit the couple every five years or so.
The script by Bernard Slade is phenomenal. With its many, delicious one-liners, it is perhaps one of the funniest plays written in the latter half of the 20th century, yet through all the laughter there is a genuine sincerity and gravitas to these characters. For an actor, the characters of Doris and George are challenging because not only do they have to age, but just about every emotional facet of life is explored: marriage, infidelity, child rearing, pregnancy, death, unemployment, career disappointments, etc. The two aren’t caricatures but fully realized people. By the end of the play the audience knows Doris and George completely.
Same Time, Next Year is set in the same suite of the same hotel. Set designer Kaori Imai creates a believable room, and it is lit quite well by Jack Piland. There are the appropriate knick-knacks and sundry items one usually finds in a hotel suite. As the years pass, the room is redecorated to reflect the time period. The bedspreads are changed as is the telephone, and even the luggage owned by Doris and George changes as fashions in décor evolve and change. While most items are period correct, there are a couple of misfires, notably in the bed spread area, but at least visually changing these items buys into the passage of time. Between scenes, Jason Rice produced a wonderful panoply sound design with news announcements, music snippets, and commercials to move the audience forward through time.
Costuming by Stephen Wantland is mostly spot on, with only a couple of missteps. An example is the strange polka dot outfit of Doris in scene 1. The two different polka dot styles between the blouse and skirt do not match, something not seen in the 1950’s. Otherwise, the costuming is good. The hair, wigs and makeup design by Roxi Taylor is more of a mixed bag: George’s forehead lines are drawn severely for such an intimate theatre and were distracting, and some of Doris’s wigs are too ratty.
Stan Kelly directed the play and the result is also a mixed bag. His staging is impeccable; he created wonderful stage pictures that utilize the space appropriately and also define the relationships between the two characters. What he missed was to help the actors develop their characters fully. Doris and George never fully become three dimensional because there is very little subtext development nor variety in their dialogue pace.
Matthew Stepanek is, without a doubt, a talented actor. There are a couple of highly dramatic moments in the script and he makes those moments shine. Palpable. However, most of the play is a comedy and his comedic timing is simply off. The few laughs he gets are due more to the cleverness of the script than the delivery of the line. Stepanek never varies his pitch, thus making many of the one-liners fall flat. George is a funny and likeable character, full of neurosis, and part of his charm is that he eventually gets therapy and we see the drastic change in him becoming a more relaxed man. Stepanek plays George the same way throughout, and even though a shift in dialogue indicates his new self-awareness, it doesn’t come across in his performance.
Doris is played by Jennifer Duggins. She is the character that surprises you in every scene because she is perpetually re-inventing herself. She goes from uneducated housewife to high school graduate, and then college student. She becomes a hippie and militant woman’s libber, a successful career woman, and eventually a contented grandmother. Duggins doesn’t differentiate the various aspects of Doris in her performance. Her comedic timing is stronger, but many of Doris’ funny observations should cause gales of laughter and instead are only slightly amusing.
The most egregious problem with the production is the lack of chemistry between the two actors. The characters are having a lusty affair that spans a quarter of a century, and though there is plenty of hugging and kissing in the play, the two leads never show genuine passion for each other. It’s as if they are going through the motions of lust without fully committing to the emotions. The script has a sexy edge to it, but, as performed here, the edge is lost.
Any negatives aside, Same Time, Next Year is so brilliantly written that even a so-so performance doesn’t detract from the possible enjoyment of the play. The production never bores, the script is that good. If you are unfamiliar with the play, it’s worth going to see this production so that you can enjoy the clever plot line and the outstanding dialogue. Slade’s script is genius.
221 W. Parker Road, Suite 580, Plano, TX 75023
Runs through April 12th
Thursday- Saturday at 8:00 pm, and a Saturday matinee on March 29th at 2:00pm. Ticket prices are $16.00 on Thursday and matinee, and $20.00 on Friday - Saturday. Seniors and students get a $2.00 discount. Groups of 10-19 get $2.00 off each ticket, and groups of 20+ get $4.00 off.
For info and to purchase tickets, go to http://www.roverdramawerks.com/ or call their box office at 972-849-0358.