"4 stars out of 4" — Green Bay Press Gazette

'Same Time' blossoms with additions

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.

Same Time Next Year Touches the Heart

by MARTY LASH for Door County Advocate

The premise of "Same Time, Next Year" starts off simple: Two people meet while away from home and have an affair. The situation gets complicated when they decide to recreate the romance once a year, every year.

This is the idea behind Bernard Slade's smart, funny and touching play. A few consider this work disturbing and a validation of infidelity; that
attitude misses the point, because the play is really about the complexities of human relationships.

What is unusual about the play's characters is they develop deep concern for each other's family members even though they will never meet them. Simply through conversation, Doris likes George's wife and comes to understand the changes his children are going through. George, too, has profound concern for Doris' husband and their offspring. Their discussions about each other's families are wonderful and feel very real.

Door Off Broadway's production of this well-known show is exceptional for several reasons. Its two characters are outstanding actors. Nathan Messina-Anderson plays George, a fairly stuffy, conservative accountant. He is the highly neurotic one in the relationship and needs to analyze everything. Messina-Anderson superbly captures his character's problems, concerns and neurosis. George is frustrating and sometimes annoying but is also lovable, and Messina-Anderson reflects the many facets of his complex role quite well. Doris is more solidly grounded. She, too, has moments of weakness and insecurities, but hers are nothing like George's. In this role Sara Griffin is remarkable. She has poise and is very believable. Her acting is relaxed and is a pleasure to watch. Griffin easily slips in and out of her character's changes, especially as she is aging. Griffin is still in college but most certainly will have a good acting career.

The two leads work together well. Sometimes you see a show or movie where the main characters seem to have no chemistry. Happily, in Door Off Broadway's production, Messina-Anderson and Griffin work together quite well. Their acting is natural and seamless.

There are two very compelling moments in the play. In the first act, Doris shows up eight months pregnant. There is no nearby hospital or doctor, and George is forced to deliver her baby (don't worry, the lights go out). Also, near the end, George asks Doris to leave her husband and marry him. George's wife has died, and he cannot cope with the idea of living alone. What transpires between them in this moment is precious and ultimately funny. Both actors make the most of these important scenes.

It was a clever idea to include collections of newspaper clippings shown throughout the show. We see the characters in scenes that are separated by five years. At least in terms of world events, the clippings help fill in the gaps. In these clippings, we see headlines dating from the Eisenhower era through the coming of the Beatles to America and Nixon's resignation. There are many headlines about the Vietnam War. These are sharp reminders of how times have changed. In fact, very little in this play stays the same, except the motel room furniture. Over the years the characters change and continue to gain in affection for each other despite their obvious differences. What transpires is very poignant and moving.

This is the third Door Off Broadway show I have seen. "Same Time, Next Year" is the best I have witnessed thus far. My hat's off to Messina-Anderson, Griffin, director James Zimmerman. and his production team.

Marty Lash is a member of the North American Music Critics Association and a former contributing editor and classical music reviewer for the Illinois Entertainer. He can be reached at mrl220@msg.dcwis.com.

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