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THEATER REVIEW: Make a date for “Same Time, Next Year” | VIDEO

They met in 1951 at a restaurant near Mendocino, Cal., where he spotted her and sent her a steak.

Now it’s the next morning, and he nervously slithers out of bed and starts to dress, hoping she is still asleep.

George (Manny Fernandes) and Doris (Melissa Fernandes), in a cozy Northern California inn, are each in town for an annual event. For George, it’s work (he’s an accountant). Doris is on the way to a retreat.

They’re an unlikely pair: he, an uptight accountant with a huge guilt complex; she, an undereducated wife and mother. Both are happily married (to others), with six children between them.

But the connection they have made will be enough to keep this “Same Time, Next Year” overnight going for the next 24 years.

Playwright Bernard Slade, writer of the popular TV series “The Flying Nun” and “The Partridge Family,” gives us six scenes roughly five years apart – ending in 1975 – allowing us to track both this relationship (and those of their families) and that tumultuous time in U.S. history between the Cold War and Vietnam.

Sound designer Justin Lang has assembled sound beds at the top of each scene that set the time – from Lucy & Ricky to “Singing in the Rain” to JFK’s inauguration, Bob Dylan, Martin Luther King Jr. and “Clouds” (among others).
Even so, the theater might have included the date of each scene in the program.

Costume changes accompany the march of time; the most hilarious is Doris’ hippie costume (fringed suede jacket, headband). She also undergoes amusing hair style and color changes.

Meanwhile George’s changes are mostly in attitude and political stance. They help each other through tragedies and high points – notably the unexpected birth of Doris’ baby in the hotel.

“Same Time” doesn’t have a lot of depth, but it does have two likable – and recognizable – characters and a script that provides humor, common life problems and humanity.

“Same Time, Next Year” was a last-minute replacement for the previously scheduled musical “Next To Normal,” which had to be scrapped due to a rights issue.

It was inspired casting to use a married couple in the show. Melissa Fernandes had been cast in “Next To Normal” and Manny was slated to direct. They have acted together before – but never opposite each other – and their ease and chemistry serve to make the show even more believable.

Melissa does more with her face than many actors do with a script; her growth in self-confidence and competence through the years are well portrayed. And that childbirth scene is a hoot.

Manny’s character is a bit more of a stick figure, the stuffed shirt concerned about both performance and sin. But he also has terrific comic timing, and gives us a touching scene when he picks up the phone to find Doris’ husband on the line.

This may be more of a chick show, but the acting and tech work make it worth seeing for all.

The details

“Same Time, Next Year” plays through Oct. 7 at New Village Arts Theatre, 2787 State St., Carlsbad.

Thursday and Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 3 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm.

For tickets, call 760-433-3245 or visit HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.

"Same Time, Next Year" Trailer from New Village Arts Theatre on Vimeo.