A 25-year love affair between two married people who meet once a year for a scandalous rendezvous will hit the Elmira Theatre Company’s stage this month.Same Time Next Year follows Doris and George from 1951 to 1978, as they continue their unusual relationship with more than a few laughs.
Director Joe Brenner says their annual visits are what prompted the title, Same Time Next Year.
“They stay married and we see them as they grow older and have kids and life goes on,” Brenner said. “We watch them grow up but we only see them as they have this romantic trip once a year. I thought it was kind of intriguing. It is a love story, but with a very interesting twist.”
He said the play is unique in how you watch two characters develop over 25 years, which usually doesn’t happen on stage. You see them age from 25-30 to 55-60. He says that added its own challenges.
“We had to make sure that the set pieces fit the time period, the costumes changed,” Brenner said. “There’s a lot of choreography going on backstage as every scene jumps five years, so that’s when we get the costumes change, the hairstyles change, the makeup changes, the music goes along with it. That added a whole lot of choreography that’s not always in a lot of plays.”
They also had to make sure all the little details were appropriate for the time period, like phones in the hotel room they’re staying in, for example. The actors needed to change their characters from scene to scene because you don’t walk and talk when you’re 20 like you do when you’re 60.
“Your worldliness, your knowledge, your innocence changes,” Brenner said.
Michele Di Tomasso will play Doris, while Steve Robinson portrays George. Brenner has worked with both actors and they each have lengthy local theatre résumés.
He directed Di Tomasso in Nunsense, the last time she performed with ETC. Her acting history includes Bye, Bye Birdie, The King and I, and The Wizard of Oz. Brenner directed ETC’s Medium Rare recently and has performed in such productions as Oliver, Sweeney Todd, and Annie.
“They’ve both been on stage a really long time, they’re experienced actors,” Brenner said. “That’s definitely made my job significantly easier.”
Written by Bernard Slade, the play was made into a 1978 movie starring Ellen Burstyn and Alan Alda. It was nominated for several Academy Awards and Golden Globe Awards. Burstyn also performed as Doris in the Broadway production and won a Tony for it.
“It is actually fairly close,” Brenner said. “It doesn’t always happen like that. This being that it was a play first the movie stayed pretty close to it.”
Since the movie was based off the play, there aren’t too many differences between them. Brenner says we see the actors in the play every five years, compared to every year in the movie.
Brenner says having just two actors makes rehearsing much easier, aside from the behind the scenes costume changes. They get the chance to really delve into their characters.
“We ask in theatre a lot, what do you want when you say a line, what do you feel?” Brenner said. “As we do in real life when we say something we usually have a meaning behind it. If he’s saying this what does he really mean? Those are discussions you have.”
He hopes the audience will not only enjoy the play for its comedy, but its changing time periods, which different age groups will be able to relate to.
“Because it covers 25 years, if it’s at the beginning of the play and they’re just having babies and life is just starting, younger people will relate to that,” Brenner said. “If it’s the end of the play and they’re retiring, older people will be able to relate to that. I think that everybody will be able to relate to the play at some point in their lives.”
For some people it will be a trip down memory lane. They’ll watch and see a similar dress they wore when they were younger, or hear a song they used to listen to. The show is an all ages event.
“It is a love story but wives could drag their husbands there, they’ll enjoy the humor,” Brenner said. “I like to say make them laugh, make them cry, send them home happy.”
The show runs April 17 to May 2 at the Elmira Theatre Company’s venue at 76 Howard Ave. Show times are 8 p.m on the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights and 2:30 p.m. matinees on the Sundays. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at the Centre in the Square box office in Kitchener by calling 578-1570 or 1-800-265-8977, online at www.centre-square.com or www.elmiratheatre.com.