Pasadena Playhouse presents a comedy in two acts by Bernard Slade. Director, Slade; sets, Gary Wissmann; lighting, Kevin Mahan; costumes, Zoe DuFour; sound design, Jon Gottlieb. Opened and reviewed Jan. 14, 1996; runs through Feb. 18. Running time: 2 hours, 25 min. TX:Cast: Nancy Dussault (Doris), Tom Troupe (George). Bernard Slade’s gentle and amiable sequel to his 1975 hit “Same Time, Next Year” has a few wonderful comedic moments and some memorable one-liners, but this production is generally flat, overlong and never manages to soar as high as the original. Much has already happened in their lives — marriages, children and tragedy. George has lost both his wife and son, and Doris’ husband has had a severe heart attack.
Over the next 17 years, told in six long scenes, their middle and later years are chronicled through
the perspective of their relationship. Through illnesses, career successes and setbacks, second marriages, second families, divorces and grandchildren, Doris and George meet each year to renew their affair, which itself seems forever changing and dynamic.
Because of their commitment to each other, a special pact of honesty has developed, and they are able to act as barometers for each other’s lives. It is a relationship that they cherish, and that audiences certainly will cherish as well in this continuation of their journey together.
The theme of this sequel, as well as the original, is that few if any relationships fit into neat boxes, and each has its own rhythm and place in people’s lives. (Certainly this theme has struck a chord around the world, making “Same Time, Next Year” one of the most produced two-character plays in recent history.)
Slade’s strength as a writer is evident here, as he manages to fill the characters’ lives with events of great richness and depth, and still maintain the easy lightness so important to a romantic comedy. The dialogue is strong and the emotional tone is consistent and true.
Unfortunately, Slade’s strengths as a writer are not matched by his skill as a director. The pacing is often plodding and the actors seem to be groping for an energy and edginess that they never quite find. Another director might also have urged cuts in some of the slower scenes and generally pushed the pace of the show.
While both actors give solid performances, they never deliver fireworks, either in their character work or in the chemistry between them. This may, in fact, be the fault of the restrained directing as much as the impulses of the actors themselves.
Dussault is winsome and often winning as the practical but still-romantic Doris, who suffers stings at the hands of the neurotic George. Dussault never trades truth for either laughter or tears, and shows here her strength as a performer. Troupe is also quite good, although he seems to take awhile to uncover the uneasy soul of George.
Production values are good, although some of the set dressing, as well as the slides between scenes, confuse rather than clarify the sequence of time.