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ORANGE COUNTY CALENDAR: ARTS, ENTERTAINMENT, LEISURE
| Theater Review

An Odd Coupling That Mostly Works

Grove Theater Center stages perennial pleaser 'Same Time, Next Year' in a standard way, with brisk pace but some uneven acting.

February 26, 2001|T.H. McCULLOH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

After Bernard Slade created the sitcoms "The Flying Nun" and "The Partridge Family"--among eight he originate--he found success on Broadway with "Same Time, Next Year."

Although it's still little more than sitcom, it's one of the more interesting entries in the genre, as evidenced in this production at Grove Theater Center's Gem Theater in Garden Grove.

CPA George and homemaker Doris, on a tiddly night early in 1951, get together for a one-night stand. He's in California doing the books for a friend who owns a vineyard. She's on her way to her yearly Catholic retreat. They find romance and excitement over a long weekend in a northern California hotel. They're both married, each with three kids, but the magic of their brief moment is something they want to hold onto.

So they do hold onto it, same time each year, and for a quarter century after that first weekend. Once a year, they meet at the hotel, revel in their sexual and emotional attraction, and through the years they become probably closer than they are with their spouses.

It's a charming idea, and it gives Slade the opportunity to paint mini-portraits of the eras they pass through, from 1950s family-oriented mawkishness through 1960s political unrest, from 1970s liberation movements to the eventual yuppie-ism that resulted.

Along the way, George and Doris change to fit the times, and the only consistent quality in their affair is the real, true and continually regenerating reality of their affection and, eventually, solid love for each other. They can't live without their once-a-year weekends, which ironically bolster their marriages and help them grow.

"Same Time, Next Year" is not a difficult play to do. All it requires is two actors with enough personality and brio to make logical the gigantic and often illogical sea of changes that affect them over the years. It has become a community theater staple for this reason.

This production partially accomplishes its purpose. Kevin Cochran has directed it in standard form, without providing any new insights into the script, and has given it a brisk pacing, at the same time with tempos leisurely enough to make the action believable.

*

The sparkling humor in this staging comes from Vickers Wilson as Doris. She not only looks young enough for the first scene, in 1951, but easily ages into the youngish grandmother of the final scenes. Her sense of humor bubbles throughout and her subtle variations from decade to decade are true and honest.

David Allen Jones is not so believable. He's a bit stodgy from the beginning, and one wonders why Doris is so taken with him. The slightly ponderous edge in his readings is dramatically correct, but there isn't a hint of a sense of humor to provide an honest balance with Wilson's buoyancy. He really looks more like Doris' very dull husband.

SHOW TIMES

"Same Time, Next Year," Gem Theater, 12852 Main St., Garden Grove. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 6 p.m. Through March 11. $18.50 to $22.50.

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