Given that people are not particularly good at it, it is rather odd that monogamy is deemed to be the only morally acceptable practice when it comes to marriage and sexual relationships in modern western culture.
The main argument appears to be that it is a means to ensure a stable and psychologically secure environment in which children can be raised (because unlike other mammals, they simply take forever to become self-sufficient).
But monogamy does not necessarily ensure such an environment. In fact, in many cases, the expectations and frustrations it engenders may contribute to a host of domestic ills. Arguably love (in its many guises), understanding, reason and a fair dose of selflessness are far better ingredients to ensure the next generation turn out to be a bunch of well-balanced, self-aware cookies.
Monogamy might actually have little to do with it, barring that anything other than is deemed socially unacceptable and thus problematic for children having to deal with the social fallout.
I’m not talking about couples embarking on a continuous string of one-night-stands and swingers parties from which they return, bleary-eyed and smelling of latex, to make the kids breakfast and do the school run.
No. How about each having one other lover, who they find exciting – even if merely because they are outside of the domestic routine – and with whom they are, paradoxically, faithful?
Shouldn’t really be a problem, should it? I mean, there’s no reason to break up a perfectly well-functioning home simply because both parties have a standing monthly, or in the case of Bernard Slade’s wonderful play Same Time Next Year, annual arrangement.
Ok, the married Doris and the married George’s respective spouses don’t know that they hook up once a year to celebrate the anniversary of the first time they both committed adultery, but the fact that their annual weekend is illicit is actually the tragedy in this comedy.
But monogamy is not an overt issue in the play. It is, upon reflection, but one of a number of issues it covertly addresses. That is, if you want to reflect on it at all. For that is the beauty of this play: once I’d stopped laughing I could choose to consider – with a broad smile – the unspoken questions around marriage and monogamy and morality and social mores, or I could choose not to think about anything at all except perhaps that I don’t believe I have ever laughed as often in the theatre as I did at Julie Hartley and Paul du Toit.
I’m not even sure why this was the case. Much of the humour was fairly obvious. Perhaps because it was delivered at such pace that by the time I saw it coming it had come. And there I was. Laughing. Involuntarily.
It was great. I’d forgotten how pleasant it can be.
It’s not all a chuckles and guffaws though. There is guilt and tenderness and a number of poignant interactions where Hartley and du Toit manage to switch the mood to produce the requisite lump in the throat and goose bumps particular scenes needed to give meaning to the play in its entirety.
Mangle these moments and a joyous, tender play turns into a soap opera where the audience provides the canned laughter in lieu of a recorded soundtrack.
Fortunately, Hartley and du Toit, directed by Christopher Weare, didn’t mangle anything but revealed the breadth of their ability by shifting from the sublime to the ridiculous at the knock on a door, thus doing ample justice to a play that has gathered a bunch of awards and nominations and, according to Wikipedia, remains one of the world’s most widely produced plays.
If it lost any of its lustre over the intervening years this trio have certainly managed to make it sparkle once again. – Steve Kretzmann
Same Time, Next Year plays at the Kalk Bay Theatre until 22 June. Dinner at the theatre is an option that is recommended. For further information and bookings go to www.kbt.co.za.