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A CurtainUp Berkshire Review
Same Time, Next Year

"When it comes to life I have a brown thumb— George
Same Time, Next Year
David Adkins and Corinna May; (Photo credit: Abby LePage)
Running a theater is a risky and expensive proposition, especially in tough economic times. So you can't blame Berkshire Theatre Group's Artistic Director and CEO Kate Maguire for playing it safe with an economical to produce twisty extra-marital romance with a close to forty-year audience pleasing history — especially if she can give it that extra something by casting two seasoned local actors who happen to be married as Doris and George, Bernard Slade's ever popular once-a-year adulterers

Corinna May and David Adkins are certainly as good, if not better, than the many actors who have made the most of these meaty roles that afford them a chance to mine the often corny and sit-comish humor for depth. It's audiences' perception of this as both a fun to watch romantic comedy but something more: an amusingly atypical long term extra-marital affair that also works as a social history of two decades that included a bitterly divisive war as well as enormous social changes.

Given the good performances in the current production, it's easy to see why Slade's clever but rather too schematic script was such a hit. It was a long running winner on Broadway for Ellen Burstyn and Charles Grodin, a popular movie with Burstyn and was Allan Alda — and even seeded a musical version though, unlike 2-character tuners like I Do, I Do, and The Last 5 Years, it never gained altitude. There's a fine,natural interaction between Adkins and May. Randall Parsons has created a nicely furnished cottage for their five-years-apart, 25-year-long assignations, complete with a piano! Charles Schoonmaker's constantly changing costumes and wigs are amusingly character defining. That said, however, there's no avoiding the whiff of the dated and too familiar which had me wishing Ms. Maguire had opted for at least one new play in one of her theaters even if it meant something not quite as tested as Same Time, Next Year as was the case with the last joint appearance by Adkins and May in Homestead Crossing also directed by Kyle Fabel.

The plot, in case you're too young to have seen the original, or haven't seen the movie or one of the umpteenth regional production (including one some seasons back at the Theater Barn in New Lebanon), is this: George and Doris are married with children and reasonably happy with their respective spouses. After a passionate chance meeting, during his annual trip to a California client (he's an accountant) and hers for a Catholic retreat, decide to meet once a year. As the scenes every five years show, this unusual set up keeps the flame of their passion alive but also builds a deeply affectionate and supportive friendship. According to George's computations they make out 135 times over the course of the affair but there's actually more talk than sex and those conversations reveal what's happening in their lives throughout the years. And while each changes in drastically different ways (his above quoted "brown thumb" for life turns green in terms of his income but he he becomes more conservative; she, on the other hand, morphs into more of a new woman) in ways that echo the ways the 50s, 60s and 70s shaped other lives as well as theirs.

My been there done that response to this revival wasn't helped by the usually excellent Kyle Fable'sover-staging of the between scenes costume and prop changes. Putting fresh sheets and covers on the beds by acting interns in maids' outfits is fine, but directing them to turn smooth scene change-overs into shameless camping for laughs gets to be tiresome. It's as if Mr. Fable didn't himself trust the jokes to still be funny and the story to engage us without such business.

Same Time, Next Year by Bernard Slade
Directed by Kyle Fabel
Cast: David Adkins and Corinna May
Scenic design by Randall Parsons
Costume design by Charles Schoonmaker
Lighting design by Paul Hackenmueller
Dound design by J Hagenbuckle
Stage Manager: John Grassey
Berkshire Theatre Festival’s main stage,Stockbridge
From 7/23/13; opening 7/25/13; closing 8/10/13
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer July 26, 2013

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