Same Time, Next Year

Time hasn't been kind to "Same Time, Next Year." Although likeable Mackenzie Phillips and Adrian Zmed work hard and honorably in this unsubtly directed touring revival of it, they lack the charisma and charm needed to make the play's basic situation, and their characters' personality changes, believable.

Cast:
Doris - Mackenzie Phillips George - Adrian Zmed

Time hasn’t been kind to “Same Time, Next Year” since Ellen Burstyn and Charles Grodin created Doris and George, its once-a-year lovers, on Broadway in 1975. Its six scenes that cover 24 years of assignations (from 1951 to 1975) seem dated today. And though likeable Mackenzie Phillips and Adrian Zmed work hard and honorably in this unsubtly directed touring revival of it, they lack the charisma and charm needed to make the play’s basic situation, and their characters’ personality changes, believable.

Doris and George, both of whom are parents happily married to their respective spouses, meet briefly once a year for a long-running sexual fling in a country inn in Northern California. Her initial reason for being away from home is an annual religious retreat; accountant George has come to California to see one of his clients.

As the years go by, with the help of period pop music and snippets of relevant news between scenes, the two evolve. At first she’s a young woman without even a high school diploma. Eventually, she educates herself (becoming a hippie at one point) and grows into a highly successful businesswoman. Meanwhile, George goes from milquetoast CPA to three-piece-suit business manager to cocktail pianist to playboy-type with gold chains and crimson bikini underwear.

The idea is to watch two people evolving over the years, but in this staging each scene seems to present us with two different people. Mostly, this production gives us a chance to watch two actors go through a series of wig and costume changes. Costumes are often amusingly designed by Ricia Birturk, but they aren’t always flattering to Phillips — particularly in light of Zmed’s boyishness.

Fortunately, both have enough skill to keep their heads above water even if the play doesn’t. It is not as rich in humor as it could be (topics include impotence, a premature birth and the deaths of George’s son and wife). And it harps too much on sexual details, thereby undermining Doris’ statement that there are reasons other than sex for their relationship to have continued for so many years. The obvious direction by Curt Wollan makes the play more of a sex comedy than a romantic comedy.

Gary Decker has provided a brownish set with suggestions of California-Spanish, Mission style and Frank Lloyd Wright. It’s not particularly attractive. In contrast with the characters, it barely changes over the play’s 24 years.

Same Time, Next Year

Shubert Theater, New Haven, Conn.; 1,600 seats; $55 top

Production: A Troupe America, William R. Biddle, Jim Murtha & William Weir presentation of a play in two acts by Bernard Slade. Directed by Curt Wollan.

Creative: Set, Gary Decker; costumes, Ricia Birturk; lighting, Scott R. Herbst; music, Kevin Rotty; production stage manager, Gary Breitbach. Opened Sept. 17, 2002, reviewed Sept. 19. Running time: 1 HOUR, 55 MIN.

Cast: Doris - Mackenzie Phillips George - Adrian Zmed

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