Sunday, February 25, 2007

Same Time Next Year

The Brisbane Arts Theatre had a coup for the start of its 2007 season: the premiere performance of noted Australian playwright Jill Shearer's latest work Candi Bentar. Unfortunately this reviewer was not able to catch that show, but other reviews were certainly favourable (you can read what Stagediary had to say here).

As tragedy often follows triumph, I would not have been surprised for the second show of the year to be a disappointment. However the Bernard Slade-penned Same Time Next Year is a sweet little production, which while a little dated and certainly not ground-breaking, contains fine performances from its two leads, and is a pleasant diversion on a Saturday night.

Can you love two people at the same time? For George and Doris, the answer is yes. The two are relatively happily married - to different people - when they meet and have a one-night stand in 1951. That one weekend turns into 25 years of weekends, always at the same time of the year, and at the same San Francisco hotel. Their relationship seems to be the one constant thing in a world full of rapid and often confusing change.

"Double handers" - shows with only two actors - are tough, and David McCartney as George and Andrea Carne as Doris do well to sustain their performances. Their American accents did waver towards the end of the show, but that's only to be expected after two hours. However both must be admired for capturing the nuances of their characters - George's youthful brashness turns into grief-stricken conservatism, and finally analytical self-acceptance; while Doris' growing confidence is a joy to watch as the young housewife and mother decides to get herself an education, embrace the revolutionary spirit of the 60s, then move into the business world and become her family's main breadwinner. At times the sexual intimacy between the two seemed somewhat forced, but the did get across the sense of deep friendship that obviously is what kept George and Doris coming back to each other every year.

Dale Murison's direction is strong, although I do feel the script could have been cut back at times to prevent some scenes from lagging. There's a few American-isms that go over the head, but that's only to be expected from a script that ends in 1975. The use of the maid (Cathy Marshall) cleaning up the room between scenes was a neat device allowing the actors to change costumes, but sometimes it went on too long. However, to not have the actors change would be a disservice to Robyn Edwards' excellent wardrobe design.

Along with murder-mysteries, Terry Pratchett adaptations and farce comedies, Brisbane's oldest community theatre specialises in gentle relationship dramas like Same Time Next Year, and this is certainly a decent show. However I hope the Arts continues to run newer and more adventurous shows alongside its trusty stables, in order to increase its audience base into the future.
Performance seen: Saturday 24 March.
Season runs until March 31.
Book on 3369 2344.

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