'Same Time' propels crowd through turbulent eras

Bowie Community Theatre gives strong performance

August 06, 2010|By Mary Johnson, Special to The Baltimore Sun

Bowie Community Theatre takes the audience on a trip through a socially turbulent era in its summer production of Bernard Slade's "Same Time Next Year."

Slade's 1975 Tony-nominated play follows East Coast accountant George and West Coast housewife Doris, who meet in 1951 at a seaside California inn where they spend the night together. The pair enjoy the tryst enough to meet annually at the same time and place despite each being married and having three children.

After their first steamy encounter, the play follows their clandestine relationship at five-year intervals over the next couple of decades. Scenes are set by songs of the era and news bulletins, as revealed in 1956 when Elvis' "Heartbreak Hotel" is interrupted by news of Dwight D. Eisenhower's re-election.

These devices work better to establish the period than do many of the pop culture references. The profound social changes highlighted in the play may bring older audience members back to the 1950s through the 1970s while teaching the younger ones how individuals were affected.

During their time together, Doris and George discuss the births, deaths and marital problems at home while adapting to new eras. George is a middle-class Everyman who values his physical and emotional relationship with Doris, which reassures and grounds him. Politically, George starts out as a liberal who voted for Adlai Stevenson. He votes for Goldwater after his favorite son, Michael, is killed in Vietnam. Even later, George gets into psychotherapy and in touch with his feelings.

Doris starts as a 1950s high-school dropout and housewife and passes through the years as a self-assured sexy blonde, a knitting pregnant woman, a Vietnam War-protesting hippie and finally a 1970s catering entrepreneur.

This play's success hinges on how the actors define George and Doris. Ben Brunnschweiler is believable as George, able to transition from a loser whose sexual gratification comes with guilt to a suit-wearing achiever rejuvenated at each tryst and later to a jean-clad psychotherapy advocate concerned about satisfying Doris. Brunnschweiler is convincing, but on opening weekend he occasionally seemed a bit weak on his delivery of a few lines.

Lori Markowitz gives Doris warmth and humanity, even changing her mannerisms as she becomes more educated. Markowitz conveys Doris' pride as she becomes a successful businesswoman, letting her husband handle it however he chooses. This Doris remains honest through her career climb, although she too stumbled over a few lines.

Director Linda Kirby coached her actors to bring humanity, poignancy and comedy to their characters. Kirby also deserves credit for helping both actors become fashionably at home in each era with their costumes.

If you go

Performances continue Friday and Saturday evenings through Aug. 14 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 8, at 2 p.m. at Bowie Playhouse in Whitemarsh Park. General admission is $15 and tickets are $10 for seniors age 62 and over and students with a valid ID. Group rates are available for 10 or more people. Call 301-805-0219 or at BCTheatre.com.

Subscriptions are now available for Bowie Community Theatre's 2010-2011 season:

C.B. Gilford's "Who Dunit?," a murder mystery, Sept. 17 to Oct. 2

Del Shores' "Sordid Lives," a black comedy for adults, Jan. 21 to Feb. 5, 2011

A. R. Gurney's "The Cocktail Hour," a young playwright's drama about his wealthy parents, April 1 to 16

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