By Chuck Graham, TucsonStage.com
photo by Ryan Fagan
Stephen Frankenfield and Shanna Brock
There is lots of subtext bubbling under the pop culture surface in Live Theatre Workshop's bouncy production of “Same Time Next Year,” a mid-1970s romp through 24 years of cultural shake-ups on a massively tectonic scale, with appropriate musical interludes to match.
Sabian Trout is at the helm as Stephen Franknfield and Shanna Brock give themselves to the roles of George and Doris, nice people who are sort of in, sort of out of the sexual revolution that filled all the newspapers and magazines back then.
From 1951 to 1975 -- spanned by six scenes in this two-hander -- appropriate hit songs of the day are played during scene changes to mark the passage of time.
From 1951 comes “I've Got A Lovely Bunch of Coconuts,” followed later by “Take Good Care of My Baby,” then on to “Laughter in the Rain” and beyond, as this couple (both committed to their straight-up, old-fashioned marriages) also wants to breath in the aura of each other and cling by their fingernails to believing they are just as free spirited as all those people the hip publications are writing about.
While the Bernard Slade show was a Broadway hit providing a touchstone for audiences who never marched to a different drummer, the movie adaptation became iconic with Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn as George the CPA who makes house calls and Doris attending an annual religious retreat.
Not that you will ever see any of Alda's low key mannerisms in Frankenfield's hilariously high-strung performance. Long a master of slapstick and pratfalls, this athletic actor is flopping and bouncing and spinning around, conveying George's uptight conservative side that is so eager to break out and – at least for one weekend every year – feel like one of those free spirits.
Brock, with her blue-eyed smile beaming, makes more graceful adjustments to this unique opportunity that both embrace for giving something of themselves to each other. Her arc of change feels more meaningful, somehow, even as Frankenfield is always so entertaining.
The set-up begins when George and Doris meet for the first time at a quaint inn north of San Francisco. She has been attending her religious retreat, he is there on business. Their chemistry is awesome.
In the next scene it is five years later and they've been meeting at the same time in the same place each and every year for a weekend of rapturous friendship.
Once that relationship gets set up, we settle back to enjoy seeing how, over the years, they learn to talk about their families and children. How his career takes off rather nicely. How her husband's, not so much.
He's suspicious of everything that's changing, all the weird hippies in their crazy clothes. She more easily embraces the peace, love and headbands of her generation.
It's in the next decade that George begins to find himself in meditation and spiritual questions, taking in the popularity of transcendental meditation, asking spiritual questions. Doris has moved on, too in her own way.
By the end, their journey feels like our journey, sharing the wonder as well as the confusion. The sanctity of marriage and the enlightenment of doing your own thing.
“Same Time Next Year” continues through August 19, with performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, at Live Theatre Workshop, 5317 E. Speedway Blvd.
Tickets are $20 ($15 Thursdays), with $2 discounts for seniors 62-plus, students and military. For details and reservations, 327-4242, livetheatreworkshop.org