John Vickery, one of America's best classical actors, recently appeared as "The Misanthrope" at South Coast Repertory. Jane Carr has a long list of classical credits from her eight years in the Royal Shakespeare Company and elsewhere.
Now they're doing Bernard Slade's "Same Time, Next Year" in La Mirada.
Let's not get snooty. Slade is no Moliere, but he knew how to put together a commercial Broadway comedy--for 1975 audiences.
Yes, La Mirada is a long way from London. But La Mirada Theatre is one of the best Broadway-style houses in Southern California, and the design team for this show has Broadway know-how. Welcome to a Southern California replication of the Great White Way, circa 1975.
The central gimmick here is that a couple meets each year at a Mendocino inn for a weekend of illicit romance. Both Doris and George are happily married to others, or so they say, and each has three children. But somehow they manage to break away from all that for their annual rendezvous.
The play follows them over 24 years, from their mid-20s to the vicinity of age 50, in six scenes--so we see every fifth brief encounter. Of the original, one wag said it might have been called "I Don't! I Don't!"
If the reference to "I Do! I Do!" is too ancient, a more recent suggested title would be "Safe Liaisons." Although George shows off his guilt early in the affair, there is no real danger of discovery or serious self-reproach. These two make adultery look comfy and convenient. Even when Doris gives birth in their mutual bed, the issue of how this is explained to her husband is never raised.
The drama stems from the passage of time more than from any inherent conflicts. Before each scene, we see slides and hear music from that scene's era, more or less (a couple of late '70s images are in the 1975 montage, but who's counting?). The lovers wear clothes and hairstyles that reflect passing fads, and sprinkle their dialogue with cultural references or jargon of the era. Offstage, the characters undergo significant changes; we hear about these from a distance.
The casting isn't perfect. Vickery has a deep, rich voice and the profile of an old-fashioned matinee idol; George would look more like a nebbish. The British-trained Carr, playing a character who was originally written as Italian-American Catholic, instead says she grew up in "an Irish family in London," probably to justify her accent. (Actually, this unexplained immigration can be rationalized as suggesting a spirit of adventure we otherwise might not understand).
However, with two pros such as these, any quibbles fade as you admire their timing and verve. Under the direction of Jules Aaron, Slade's comedy still gets its laughs.
* "Same Time, Next Year," La Mirada Theatre, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday matinees, 2:30 p.m.; Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Ends March 19. $28-$32. (310) 944-9801 or (714) 994-6310. Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes.
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Jane Carr: Doris
John Vickery: George
McCoy/Rigby Entertainment's presentation of Bernard Slade's comedy. Directed by Jules Aaron. Sets by John Iacovelli. Lights by Martin Aronstein. Sound by Jon Gottlieb. Projections by Douglas D. Smith. Costumes by Jean-Pierre Dorleac. Makeup/wigs by Melanie Smith. Original music by Chuck Estes. Production stage manager Nevin Hedley.