SAME TIME, NEXT YEAR
IpSkip Productions
Bakehouse Theatre
Until 02 Oct 2021

Review by Helen Karakulak

Directed by Jude Hines, “Same Time, Next Year” is a well-paced production that explores the endurance of love. The play follows Doris and George after a one-night stand becomes a yearly tradition where the two meet at the same hotel room where it all began to try and put aside the other events of their lives and be together. However, the other parts of their lives seep through and impact their time together regardless, making for an intriguing, amusing and occasionally conflict-inducing affair.

Allison Scharber plays the warm Doris alongside Patrick Clements as the neurotic George. The two have a palpable chemistry that the production relies on, as they whiz through the fast-paced first act with great humour as their characters find comfort in sharing their secret breaks through stress-filled moments.

The second act brings a more solemn side to the erratic George we got to know in the first, and Clements strikes the balance of both commendably. George is the type of character that to know, let alone date, in your real life would over time become insufferable despite an initial charm. Considering this, only seeing each other once a year is probably the only thing that keeps this romance alive, a well-plotted element of Bernard Slade’s writing. However, Clements brings a great depth to the role that humanises the man in even his lowest moments of insistence of erratic dwelling to feel better about his adultery and channelling misplaced anger into Doris’ newfound politics.

Scharber brings a sense of modesty to the role initially, allowing her character’s growth throughout the performance to shine through natural and sophisticated characterisation. Her physicality as a changed woman was captivating, and coupled with costuming assisted by Gillian Cordell, was so effective that a whisper in the audience could be heard to ask, “is that the same actress?” in various scenes.

The delivery of dialogue from both Clements and Scharber cements their characters intimacy and achieves well-timed comedy. The set design by Gary Anderson is impressive with a 1950s style bed and sofa featured in the hotel room along with a simple dresser and grand piano. The hotel room, unlike the two characters that frequent it each year, is unchanging aside from the bedspread which is changed between scenes by stage manager Lari Paynter. In a nice touch, Paynter is dressed in a maid’s uniform as she dresses the set.

The affair between Doris and George spans 24 years and in an insightful and clever tactic, the time passing between meetings is expressed by historical radio broadcasts and hit songs of the time as the set is changed between scenes. Through snippets of key events like the Vietnam war, the assassination of JFK and nods to the women’s liberation movement, audiences get a glimpse of the events of the time shaping the couple’s political and social attitudes. Assisted by clothing and hair choices along with the details of dialogue, the setting is clear and well-developed without being overly complicated.

This production won’t resonate with today’s audiences as much as it might of those that came before it, but it’s underlying themes regarding gender roles and relationships remain relevant today. The comedy