George and Doris are very likable people. Phil Rice, who’s directing The Theater Barn production of “Same Time Next Year,” is making certain of that.
The play, which opens Thursday and runs through July 6 at The Theater Barn in New Lebanon, centers on a 24-year love affair between George, played by Brian Allard, and Doris, played by Kathleen Carey. The two are married and in love with their respective spouses, but still meet once a year at a bed-and-breakfast in northern California. Over the years, their initial dalliance grows into a deep emotional attachment that neither wants to sever, and despite the fact that the two are carrying on an illicit affair, you can’t help but root for them. At least that’s what Rice is counting on.
More than an affair
“It’s important they’re both people that the audience can empathize with, and it’s much more than just an affair,” said Rice, a former teacher at Shaker High School and a familiar actor and director among Capital Region theatergoers. “Neither one has fallen out of love with their spouse, and they’re very decent people. It’s just a complicated relationship, and each one gets something out of their relationship that’s different from what they get with their spouses.”
While the pair meet once every year, the play, written by Bernard Slade and first produced at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London in 1976, only shows their meetings every five years. Allard, an actor, director and educator who lives in Portland, Ore., when he’s not doing summer stock, is working at The Theater Barn for the third time. So is Carey, a Troy native and Russell Sage graduate who area fans know from her work at Albany Civic Theater.
’Same Time Next Year’
WHERE: The Theater Barn, 654 Route 20, New Lebanon
WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 5 and 8:30 p.m., Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday, through July 6.
HOW MUCH: $22-$20
MORE INFO: 794-8989 or www.theaterbarn.com
“They’re both very creative actors and we’ve had some great rehearsals,” said Rice. “It’s a very intense rehearsal process. So we’re spending a lot of time together in the last few days. But it’s a great collaboration. Between their personalities and my feelings about these characters, we’re really putting our stamp on this play.”
When “Same Time Next Year” opened on Broadway in 1975, Ellen Burstyn and Charles Grodin played Doris and George. The show ran for more than three years and was nominated for three Tony Awards, with Burstyn winning for Best Actress.
In 1978, Burstyn reprised her role for Hollywood and the movie was a moderate success, earning four Oscar nominations, including one for Burstyn and Slade, who adapted his play for the screen. Alan Alda played George.
“It’s a wonderful script, and he really captures these people,” Rice said. “They are real people and very complete characters. It has its moments of pathos and then some very good belly laughs. We get to know these characters and see them grow over 25 years.”
March of time
Doris and George may age from their 20s into their 40s, but Allard and Carey do it all without any significant makeup changes.
“There’s no time for makeup because we go from one scene right into the next,” said Allard, who is 32. “The aging is done by our acting and the audience’s willing suspension of disbelief. I remember what it was like to be in my 20s, and I have plenty of friends in their 40s and 50s. It’s a challenge, but it’s a fun challenge.”
Allard said he isn’t worried about the audience not liking George or Doris.
“He’s not a womanizer. He’s incredibly awkward at the beginning, but he’s an incredibly nice guy, and he spends a good third of the play feeling immensely guilty about the whole thing. He very much cares for his wife, but he also cares very much for this other woman.”
Allard has never seen a stage version of the play, and he only vaguely remembers the movie.
“Alan Alda is one of my favorite actors — so I’m sure I must have seen the movie a long time ago but it’s not very clear to me,” he said. “As much as I enjoy watching him, I’ll be doing it my own way.”
Allard was also in The Theater Barn’s production of “How the Other Half Loves,” which concluded its two-week run on Sunday night. Despite the back-to-back shows and the hectic rehearsal schedule, Allard says he couldn’t be enjoying himself more.
“For me, it’s wonderful to take a break from my regular life,” said Allard, who is a theater teacher at the Northwest Academy and education director at the Blue Monkey Theater, both in Portland, Ore. “When I come here, I’m able to focus on just being an actor. I’m not worried about acting, teaching, directing and 100 other things. Even though we’re working very hard, it’s been a wonderful experience. I had fun working here two years ago, and that’s why I’m back.”
Allard also was paired up with Carey in “How the Other Half Loves.”
“She’s great, and we’re actually having an affair with each other in that play, too,” said Allard. “I don’t think people will have any trouble believing we could fall in love with each other.”
For Rice, the two actors are well matched.
“Brian is a very flexible actor with great range, and Kathleen has that same kind of range,” said Rice. “You really need two actors with that kind of range for a show like this. I saw Brian two years ago. So I knew he’d be great for this part, and I’ve worked with Kathleen a number of times in the past. She takes great direction and she can give a lot back as well.”