Same Time Next Year a touching portrayal of a loving non-traditional relationship

It’s a popular saying that people often come into your life when you need them the most, and Same Time Next Year playing at Festival Place shows the truth and beauty of that saying.

Same Time Next Year takes place in a rented apartment, starting as a one night stand and turning into a 24 year relationship built on annual weekend trysts, away from Doris and George’s respective husband and wife.

I loved the chemistry between Elizabeth Marsh and Gary Carter. Having seen them on stage together previously, I knew they were familiar with each other, but I appreciated the way they physically interacted with each other. Through their body language alone, they took us on the journey of their awkward first rendezvous all the way through to the time when a couple has been together long enough to be completely comfortable with one another and to intuitively know what the other needs.

Although as an audience member it is a bit hard to wrap your brain around the different years each scene takes place in (okay, what year are we in now?), both Elizabeth and Gary did an impressive job transforming themselves between each scene. It wasn’t a matter of a new costume or wig, it was a matter of transforming their entire countenance and life outlook. Both actors did so convincingly – from the minute they reappeared onstage, I knew that the actor knew and had absorbed all the things that had happened to their character in the years between the last scene and the present scene.

The only complaint I had about the direction and acting – and it could have just been opening night jitters – but the first scene, the morning after their first night together, felt rushed and more awkward than even a “morning after” scene should have felt. In that scene, I wasn’t convinced of the hot/life-altering/incredible night they had spent together or the instant chemistry between the two. George’s burning love for Doris felt forced and coming from nowhere. All this was corrected though in subsequent scenes as the years went on and the once-a-year couple survived more and more trying experiences and confessions. Throughout each scene I became more and more fond of the couple, really genuinely believing and being moved by all the things that life threw at them individually and how they got through it together.

One thing I found surprising was the set. When I first walked in, I had the thought, “Wow, can I get [Set Designer] Jon Shields to come design my house?” The set was a beautifully designed bedroom and living room that just radiated the air of a cozy, secret hideaway that you never wanted to leave. And then I remembered the year was 1951 and, I have to admit, that threw me off.

While still want to take home all of the linens and pillows used in the show, none of them really spoke to me as period pieces from the 50’s, 60’s, or 70’s. With the multimedia show of magazine covers, cars and world events from the era of the next scene during the (rather long) scene changes, I’m inferring the intent was to run the show as a period piece. However, I didn’t see that in the set. With a few tweaks to the script, this play could easily take place in the 90’s, 00’s and 10’s and then the set would have made total sense, but the contrast between the modern-looking set and the multimedia show about the period and the events mentioned in the script, it did take me out of the show a bit.

Overall though, Festival Player’s rendition of Same Time Next Year is a touching play that challenges our assumptions about marriage, love, and relationships withstanding the test of time. The show plays July 18 – 20 and 25 – 27 at 7:30 at Festival Place in Sherwood Park. Tickets are $20 through the Festival Place box office.

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