WHAT, REALLY CONSTITUTES a life-long friendship? Is it the sharing of trauma? Is it found in people who you were schooled with as infants? Is it about the people you found yourself shoved up against in the army? For George (Alan Committie) and Doris (Sharon Spiegel-Wagner), it’s about keeping a secret, telling good stories and bad ones about their respective spouses, and upholding a traditional rendezvous. And yes, sex. And it all happens, once a year, in one hotel room over a whopping 25 years. Same Time Next Year, directed by Christopher Weare at the Pieter Toerien Theatre, Montecasino, until 8 October is a complete delight that will have you shrieking with laughter. Even days after you have seen it.
With a premise that reeks of ‘social experiment’ – they do not communicate with one another the rest of the year and have just this one weekend each year in which to catch up on news, each other’s bodies and politics – it’s a play that teases your funny bone in the direction of farce. And there are no two cast members better suited to give this work life, hilarity and energy. And the show, with its crazy fulsomeness evokes the work and pants-wettingly funny social commentary and antics of Carol Burnett and friends in their 1970s hey-day.
With his fantastic understanding of physical humour and her quick tongue and lithe form, Committie and Spiegel-Wagner render George and Doris a beautiful cipher for human interaction, and you have two hours to whizz through 25 years of political change, music fashions women’s rights, drooping bodies which have vulnerabilities and aches and pains, as well as, of course, loss and hardship, sadness and laughter.
George and Doris first get together in 1976. You get to watch them, sequency by sequence growing into fully fledged adult members of society. His hair starts thinning and his values get even more conservative, but also he becomes more comfortable with himself. She plays with all the fashions of the eras, and à la Julie Walters in Educating Rita, grows her brain as well as her family. In 1980s frocks and hairdos are exchanged for jeans and four-letter words, while she finds herself. Their respective spouses, Helen and Harry, are as much a part of their discourse as they are. Their children too, in the form of photographs, are part of the narrative.
But it is the humour that cements their friendship and gives this play the winning status it deserves. There are lines delivered with such dead-pan proficiency that you will shriek with unabated, dare I say helpless, laughter. It’s about human folly and insecurity in formal situations. It’s about giving birth when you’ve arrived to get down and dirty. It’s about a 1970s abstract painting which works crookedly as much as it works straight. It’s about what two strangers can give to each other in terms of listening ears, guiding principles and confidence boosters and like Actress, performing upstairs in the same theatre complex, it is tight and clean of shlock. Conceived in a hotbed of cliché, this is a stand-out play, beautifully performed and insanely funny.
- Same Time Next Year is directed by Christopher Weare. Written by Bernard Slade and performed by Alan Committie and Sharon Spiegel-Wagner, it features design by Niall Griffin and is at the Pieter Toerien Theatre, Montecasino complex in Fourways until 8 October.