Same Time, Next Year – An Atlanta Theater Fans Review

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Same Time, Next Yeat at Stage Door Players, an Atlanta Theater

Bryan Brendle and Cara Mantella in Same Time, Next Year. Photo courtesy of Stage Door Players

Is it possible to be in love with more than one person? This idea is explored in Stage Door Players’ production of Same Time, Next Year by Bernard Slade.

When two happily married people meet by chance one weekend, they immediately fall for each other, and because of their connection, they decide to meet at the “same time, next year” and continue doing so for 25 years. Starting with the morning after their first meeting, the play spans from 1951 to 1975 offering six vignettes of the annual meetings.

Two-person plays can be tricky as the two people in the cast have to have chemistry to pull it off. Slade’s witty script is in good hands with Cara Mantella and Bryan Brendle, who give both humorous and heartfelt performances. Director Tess Malis Kincaid has maximized the talent of two of Atlanta’s finest actors.

As the optimistic, yet somewhat ditsy Doris, Mantella gives a deeply layered performance as a woman trying to balance her love for her family and her feelings for her lover. As the passionate, yet worrisome accountant George, Brendle presents a deeply moving range of emotions. Both bring universal humanity to characters that—on the surface—get immediately judged. Whether you agree with or accept the behavior of these two characters, it’s easy to connect with them and hope they find happiness.

Although no drastic measures have been taken to alter their appearance save wig changes for Doris and slight hair-graying for George, the characters’ transformations from scene to scene are remarkable. The subtleties of changes in expressions, mannerisms and speech make it easy to accept that time has passed. However, the scene changes are not quite as seamless. The time between scenes is too long and promotes too much chatter amongst the audience (at least it did on opening night.) However, once the lights come back up the audience is once again enchanted by the talent of Brendle and Mantella.

The design elements for the show have been carefully considered for the 25 years over which the story unfolds. Costuming by Jim Alford impeccably matches the styles of the time periods while Chuck Welcome’s set consisting of a rental cottage in Northern California serves as the meeting place for each yearly visit.

Playing through April 8 at Stage Door Players at the North Dekalb Cultural Center, Same Time, Next Year has performances on Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. and Sunday afternoons at 2:30 p.m. The play’s running time is approximately two and a half hours including one intermission. For tickets and more information please visit http://www.stagedoorplayers.net/ or call 770-396-1726.

– A. Wesley