George: "How did you know it was my first time?"
Doris: " I could tell from the way you tried to take your pants off over your shoes and tripped and hit your head on the coffee table."
It is the year 1951, and George and Doris have just had sex for the first time. They are married—but not to each other, and have just embarked on an adulterous quarter-century-long love affair. Bernard Slade's 33-year-old oddball romantic-comedy Same Time, Next Year is one of the most popular modern comedies in the world, having run four years straight on Broadway in the mid-'70s, becoming one of the most often-produced plays ever written.
In a funny, sweet, emotionally aware new production by the Pacific Alliance Stage Company, director Hector Correa and his brilliant two-person cast remind us why the story of George and Doris and their once-a-year affair keeps being told in theaters across America: right or wrong, it's hard to resist rooting for this pair of cheaters to find a way to keep going, because, right or wrong, they obviously love each other, at least as much as they love their spouses.
As George, PASCO mainstay Michael Navarra is excellent, maintaining the right combination of light comedy and bruised humanity as his character gradually evolves, in six scenes set about five years apart, from frisky 1950s businessman to angry late-'60s conservative to downwardly mobile therapy addict and beyond. Even more astonishing is Tara Blau as Doris, whose character arc is even more extreme, starting out as a minimally educated girl-woman and ending up, through sheer personal effort and a stint at UC Berkeley in the '60s, moving from housewife to mother to flower-child to successful businesswoman. Set against the music and news-flashes of the decades the characters pass through, the play is remarkably funny and packed with amusing observations about the sexes, as when Doris points out, "Women are more pragmatic than men. They adjust to rottenness quicker."
It is also entertainingly detailed: each time George and Doris meet in the same beach-side cottage, in addition to the sleeping-together part, they develop a ritual of telling each other one good story and one bad story about their spouses, Harry and Helen, who gradually become characters of their own. There are only a few places this illicit romance can possibly end up, and the genius of Slade's script is that it manages to take us to all of them.
Same Time, Next Year runs Thursday&–Sunday through Dec. 7 at the Spreckels Performing Arts Center. 5409 Snyder Lane, Rohnert Park. Thursdays at 7:30pm; Friday&–Saturday at 8pm; Sunday at 2:30pm. $17&–$24. 707.588.3400.
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