SAME TIME, NEXT YEARBy Bernard Slade
Director –M. Shane Hurst
Intimacy Director—Emily Leeka
Set Designer—Rodney Dobbs
Lighting Designer – Alex Ammons
Sound Designer – M. Shane Hurst
Costume Designer – Dallas Costume Shoppe
Property Design—Meredith Butterfield
Stage Manager—Cathy Parks Bardin
Reviewed Performance: 11/5/2022
Reviewed by Genevieve Croft , Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Written in 1975, “Same Time, Next Year” centers around two people, married to others, who meet for a romantic tryst once a year for two dozen years. Written by Bernard Slade (who also had a fairly successful career as a sitcom writer) writing for “The Flying Nun,” and “The Partridge Family.” While it may not be as popular as romantic comedies by Neil Simon, “Same Time, Next Year” does hold its own winning a Drama Desk Award for Ellen Burstyn (Outstanding Actress in a Play), and a Tony Award for Ellen Burstyn (Best Actress in a Play) and several Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle Awards nominations as well. Over the years, there has been quite a gamut of talent playing the two roles- from Ted Bessell and Loretta Swit to Dick Van Dyke and Carol Burnett, “Same Time, Next Year” continues to be a favorite of community theatre audiences. There was even a sequel, written by Slade, titled “Same Time, Another Year” produced in 1996, continuing the relationship into the 11980sand early 9’90s Director M. Shane Hurst brought together a small and talented ensemble cast that worked well together and collaborated with a crew who clearly took their jobs seriously and knit together design elements that enhanced the story being told by these eccentric characters. The overall vision of the production was executed well.
Having only been to Frisco Theatre once or twice a few years ago (pre-pandemic), I remembered that it was a smaller, black box space, however, I had forgotten how intimate the space was. Seating roughly 75 (give or take) seats. Sometimes, this can be a blessing and a curse. One of the unique things about a black box space is the ability to turn the space into anything you want. It is like a blank canvas- it starts out very plain and empty, but, once the vision is established, each of the designers can mold the setting (time and place) into whatever they wish. This space was ABSOLUTELY perfect for a production such as this one. It is evident that Hurst wanted the focus to be on the journey and relationships of the characters rather than the bells and whistles of a “fancy” set.
Sets were designed by Rodney Dobbs. The functionality of the sets that Dobbs put together was marvelous. As previously mentioned, the overall vision for the production was to place importance on the relationship and journey of Doris and George over the course of a twenty-year period. It was enjoyable to see truly little change on the set over the course of this period. I thought the juxtaposition between the evolving relationship of Doris and George with little change to the location of their yearly rendezvous was a nice way visually represent how time can change people, and not necessarily places.
The only real change in the sets over the course of the production was a new bedspread-which I can easily picture to be one of the only things that change in a cottage like this one over the course of twenty years. There were some fantastic details that really helped to create the atmosphere and mood. I was extremely impressed with the small “adobe” fireplace on stage, and the use of wall texturing to create the early 1950’s California cottage or farmhouse look. All of the furniture and fixtures were equal in keeping with the overall vision. It was impressive to see such time, care, and detail put into a scenic design where it could have easily been an overlooked element of design.
As with any black box space, be prepared to be up close and personal with all aspects of the production in this performance space. Also, be prepared, as it is “thrust” style theatre, to see the back of an actor’s head from time to time- unfortunately, one of the disadvantages to being on one side of the three-sided audience configuration.
Costumes were designed by Dallas Costume Shoppe. As I have come to learn with the Dallas Costume Shoppe, audiences will always get quality and commitment to creating the time and place with great detail and care. While George’s costumes really did not have much change (which seems to be pretty common for a male), I really got a kick out of seeing Doris evolve from a 1950’s housewife to the radical college hippie attending Berkeley, and into the epitome of the independent businesswoman of the early ’70s. Doris’ costumes were appropriate for the time and were a lovely visual depiction of her changing ideals and personality over the course of twenty years. I especially LOVED seeing her hairstyles change throughout the years as well- wigs were phenomenal, and comical all at once.
I very much enjoyed hearing the progression of time over the speakers throughout each scene transition. It was presented in the style of a radio newscast, hitting all the important news events over each five-year break between meetings. From important news events (the assassination of JFK) to topics of more light-heartedness (popular songs and toys of the time period)-it really helped establish the progression of time and made the story more realistic. It was a creative way to keep the audience engaged while necessary costume changes were made. Personally, it helped keep me in the moment and did not withdraw my concentration and focus on the time period. Well done!
Amanda Carson Green was incredibly believable in the role of Doris. Through extremely humorous facial expressions, body language, and incredible comic timing, Carson Green convincingly portrayed the likable Doris. While audiences were introduced to Carson Green’s character as the unexpected adulteress, it was extremely hard to find her character unlikeable. I felt great sympathy for her character and found the story to be nothing more than a romantic love story. Somehow, the notion presented of having a once-a-year romantic tryst was not abominable-especially when they frequently discussed the “good” and “bad” stories of their spouse. It made Doris and George’s characters seem more human, and not dislikeable. Carson Green never faltered in her delivery, and her chemistry with Rains was spot-on throughout the twenty years that the romantic affair took place.
Playing alongside Carson Green was Alex Rain as the strait-laced, businessman George. Rain did a phenomenal job of keeping many of the same ideals year after year while playing a truly honest depiction of his affection for Doris. As Doris changed throughout the years, it was interesting to see George’s character stay fairly the same (until the very end), when Doris changed into an independent businesswoman, and George lightens up and becomes a casual 1970s lounge singer not concerned with money or the stresses of life. Quite the shift in attitude over the course of twenty years! Rain had great vocal delivery and was also found to be a very charming and charismatic character. Rain had wonderful reactions and chemistry with Carson Green on stage.
This production of Same Time, Next Year is definitely worth seeing. It may be dated in terms of dialogue and references, but you are guaranteed to leave the theatre with all the “ups and downs” of a romantic relationship. I was left wondering, “what if…? What if this kind of friendship or relationship could happen? What would come out of it? Would it be something romantic? We may never know. But the idea that Bernard Slade put together on stage in this script does bear musings on the subject. From the same-titled song by Paul McCartney and Wings, “I’ll be here the same as ever, ah…but nothing changes…” But, alas, it does. I encourage you to see this production of “Same Time, Next Year” at Frisco Theatre, if only for a romantic love story that could take place no matter the time or the place.
Frisco Discovery Center Black Box Theater
8004 North Dallas Parkway, Suite 200, Frisco, Texas
Plays through November 20.
Fridays at 8:00 pm, Saturdays at 2:30pm and 8:00 pm, Sunday at 2:30 pm
Ticket prices range from $15.00-$25.00 depending on seating.
For information, call 972-370-2266 or visit: www.theatrefrisco.com