SAME TIME, NEXT YEAR, Headstrong Theatre. Bernard Slade’s smarmy 70s-era dinner-theater standard comes off as both immoral and uptight. Immoral because it sentimentalizes adultery: George and Doris, married but not to each other, meet once a year for 25 years for a weekend fling, with minimal effects on their families. And uptight because even the most indirect allusion to sex is supposed to bring big laughs from the sexually repressed audience. More annoying still is the way Slade tries every trick in the book to move, shock, and amuse us, putting his two characters through more changes in 25 years than any ten swingers might undergo, then providing a totally unearned happy ending.

It’s no wonder Ken Craig and Jan Graves have trouble bringing the play to life despite Jack Lampert’s pretty good direction–he gets the broad strokes right but leaves the details fuzzy–and William T. Buster’s excellent set and costume designs. Craig doesn’t really have the range to make George believable: this literature-loving accountant turns into a crusty businessman, then a wacked-out encounter-group addict, then a perfect sensitive male of the 70s. Graves fares better as the housewife turned hippie turned women’s libber turned catering tycoon turned rough-and-Helen Reddy-ish woman of the 70s. And the two manage a certain chemistry onstage. But it would take a lot more than a little chemistry to keep this old warhorse from the glue factory.

–Jack Helbig