By John Swartz
If you are going to see Same Time Next Year at the Opera House, do yourself a favour, do not watch the movie beforehand. Having forgotten most of the story, except for the premise (two people meet annually in the same hotel room every year for 24 years) the turns of events, the wise cracks, the surprises were fresh and appreciated better.
If you haven’t seen the movie, first what planet are you from? It was huge when it came out. If you are too young to have seen it back in the day, see paragraph one. Secondly, you are going to enjoy the story and the actor’s performances from a fresh perspective.
The show opens with Doris (Viviana Zarrillo) and George (Nigel Hamer) at the waning moments of their first encounter. They are married, but not to each other. We touch base with them about every 5 years thereafter.
For an older audience member, you’ll be transported back to times familiar in a way that rings true. It’s interesting how the actors adjust attitudes, mannerisms, actions and interactions according to the norm of the particular year the story is occupying. Some of it is subtle, some not. Some of it might be lost on a younger viewer, however, the playwright, Bernard Slade (of St. Catherines, Ontario), who had a longer career writing for television (Bewitched, The Flying Nun, Courtship of Eddie’s Father, Partridge Family and others), wrote more incisively for this stage piece than he might have for say Paul Lynde or Shirley Jones about the condition of the human experience of being in love with someone you know you can never be with full-time as a persistent theme of each scene and universal.
There are two moments of absolute seriousness, both delivered by George, which can tear the heart of every man. They won’t be given away here, but you’ll sense them coming and its best to be prepared for the emotion they will demand.
For younger viewers, you‘ll be aided by a cleverly utilized video montage projected on the back wall of the set when changes are happening. They will give you some worldly context for the time period being shifted to, though the 1966 montage had some images from years which hadn’t happened yet.
It’s also interesting how the characters switch sides portraying attitudes about themselves and society between the 1966 and 1971 scenes. People change, huh?
And pay attention to how the actors physically navigate the story from their relative youthfulness, to high-end middle age. The body language is such if it was a silent play you’d get the aging sense just from how they move.
Both actors were in last year’s Plaza Suite. Zarillo has had a few more summer theater roles. In each case, their immersion in the current roles won’t betray you’ve seen them before on an Orillia stage.
If you haven’t got a ticket yet, you might want to do so the minute you finish reading this review. The last play, Gentleman Clothier was completely sold out before the end of the first week of its run and this one isn’t far behind.