By Warren Gerds
JACKSONPORT – Sex is what draws Doris and George together. It's a magnet that attracts them for one lusty weekend a year for 25 years. This, despite being married to someone else.
That tantalizing part of Bernard Slade's "Same Time, Next Year" remains the same three decades after the play first appeared on Broadway.
Moral qualms aside, the comedy-drama remains a fun and provocative look at two people over time. We see Doris and George in five-year increments. They change. The times change.
Door Off Broadway Dinner Theatre director James A. Zimmerman adds to that in a winning way: During scene changes, the audience sees a slide show he put together with headlines from the past, mixed in with popular music from advancing years.
This has profound effects. The images trace pop culture and international crises. They put the people in the play in context and offer an awesome history lesson on everything from the Korean War to the breakup of the Beatles. This is riveting, stunning.
The story starts in 1951 and ends in 1975, the year the play premiered. This production isn't updated. But it is enhanced by the slide/music element.
Actors Sara Griffin and Nathan Messina-Anderson add flesh-and-blood vitality.
Because "Same Time, Next Year" covers a 25-year span, it's tricky. You either have older actors sometimes playing younger people or you have younger actors sometimes playing older people. This version has the latter, and that works more than fine.
Of note, Griffin is in her first paying gig. She's a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, and she's got the acting "chops."
Griffin must be a sponge, soaking up what she sees in people/life around her and then applying that in performance.
Most impressive: The way she moves and carries her body and the mannerisms she applies in the scene in which Doris is eight months pregnant.
Messina-Anderson is solid as a guy who misplaced the "Easy" button for life and flies in to fits of energized panic. (More than once you'd like to kick George in the pants).
Comedy rolls through. Doris and George tell a lot of funny things about themselves and their spouses.
Some jokes tell of the tenor of a time. George is briefly guilt-ridden during the first tryst, then figures what the heck about it and says, "The Russians have the bomb, and we could all be dead tomorrow."
There's poignant punch, too. Most powerful: Something that happens to George during the Vietnam War still happens today because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The production fascinates. It's still a romantic comedy. It's still about people going through periods in life and fad phases. The words on the page are the same as they were in 1975. The enhancements of director Zimmerman bring new dimensions to what the playwright wrote.
by MARTY LASH for Door County Advocate