It is something special to have two Tony winners performing in Atlanta. It is even more special when the two are Kenny Leon and Phylicia Rashad onstage together for the first time in Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company’s production of Same Time Next Year, directed by Chris Coleman.
Written by Bernard Slade, the romantic comedy follows the two lovers over the course of 24 years as they meet on the same day each year, starting in 1951. George, a CPA, and Doris, a housewife, meet at a restaurant during one of George’s business trips and begin a long-lasting affair.
The hit play debuted on Broadway in 1975 and a successful movie staring Ellen Burstyn and Alan Alda was made a couple of years later. Partly a victim of the decade and partly a victim to the show’s conceit, the play is politically conscious and a bit absurd. But that doesn’t stop Leon and Rashad from putting on a phenomenal show.
One issue that any theater producing this play must tackle is the fact that the characters age through the show as it goes from the 50s to the 70s. Most shows will cast younger actors and “age” them as the show progresses. This show, however, has taken a different approach, which works for and against it. When the show begins, it is unclear what the age of the characters are supposed to be. Regardless, as the show unfolds, age takes a backseat to the remarkable performances.
Leon is perfect for the role of George. Funny, charming and believable, he wins over the audience with a clumsy and unassuming persona. Not only does he show impeccable timing, but he uses his tone and body for laughs and to convey subtle emotions, especially in the scene where he answers the phone call that was supposed to be for Doris. From his nervous jitters in the opening scene to the suave confidence he oozes in the final scene, Leon proves that he is as much of a force on the stage as he is behind the scenes.
In the role of Doris, Rashad brings a warmth and boldness to the character that audiences expect. She makes the role her own with little things such as the way she gushes over the photos of George’s children and the way she laughs at the things he says. Like Leon her own penchant for comedic timing is flawless, where just a glance or quick quip leaves the audience roaring.
A must-see production this summer, Same Time Next Year plays at Southwest Arts Center through August 3, 2014. For tickets and more information, please visit the website for Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company. The show’s run time is about two hours with an intermission.
– Kenny Norton