Tuesday, January 26, 2016

SAME TIME NEXT YEAR, delightful “old time” comedy at Actors’ Summit

Bernard Slade.  Name sound familiar?  Probably not.  How about “Bewitched,” “The Flying Nun,” “The Partridge Family,” “Bridget Loves Bernie?”  Slade and all of those mid-1900 television shows do have a connection.  He developed, authored or worked on all of them!

The award winning Slade is also noted for such stage plays and films as TRIBUTE, ROMANTIC COMEDY and SAME TIME NEXT YEAR.  The latter is now in production at Actors’ Summit.

SAME TIME NEXT YEAR centers on George, a New Jersey accountant, and Doris, an Oakland housewife.  They meet at a North California Inn in February, 1951, are immediately attracted to each other, and have a one-night fling.  Both are married and have children, but, for the next 24  years, they meet once a year, at the same time and place.  They develop a deep emotional attachment for each other and feel free to discuss births, deaths, and marital problems.

Over the span of the play, which gives a flash of their one day of February get- togethers, every five years (1951, 1956, 1961, etc.).  We observe as they age, both in attitudes and looks, and share life events, both positive and negative.   Our last visit with them is in 1975. 

The play, which was nominated for a Tony Award and won the Drama desk Award for best New American play, opened on Broadway in 1975 and ran for close to 1,500 performances.  The  original cast was Ellen Burstyn and Charles Grodin.   It was transformed into a 1978 film starring Burstyn and Alan Alda.

The script is an early Neil Simon-level comedy.  It is filled with jokes, nostalgia, sweetness, gentle conflicts, and lots of laughs.  By today’s offerings it would be called “old fashioned.”  It  is much in the form and language and incidents of a television sitcom. 

The Actors’ Summit production, under the direction of Paula Kline-Messner, is well done.  The timing is excellent, the laughs nicely keyed, the character development clear.  The scenes are nicely introduced by Kevin Rutan’s era-correct musical segues which also broadcast the tone of the up-coming scene.   For instance, the opening scene is preceded by “Love Is A Many Splendored Thing,” Andy Williams’ mid-century hit.

Keith Stevens nicely textures his portrayal of George, the “up-tight” stereotypical accountant through his personality growth and life-cycles, which include California-west coast Esalen “touchy-feely” persona, to a conservative Republican, and then his mature years.

Natalie Sander Kern, focuses a laser spotlight on Doris as she moves from up-tight Catholic with limited educational background to swinging hippie, to an educated and mature woman.  

Capsule judgement:  SAME TIME NEXT YEAR is an old-fashioned comedy that is filled with tender and humorous lines.  It a perfect play choice for the Actors’ Summit audiences and gets a delightful production under the direction of Paula Kline Messner, with fine performances by Keith Stevens and Natalie Sander Kern.

For tickets to SAME TIME NEXT YEAR, which runs through February 7, 2016 , call 330-374-7568 or go to www.actorssummit.org