by MICHAEL BOWEN & r & & r & SAME TIME, NEXT YEAR & r & at Interplayers through Nov. 3 & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & "I & lt;/span & know what the critics say about this play," says Interplayers' Esta Rosevear, who's directing Same Time, Next Year, Bernard Slade's sentimental comedy about a once-a-year adulterous affair that goes on for 25 years. "It's not a masterpiece. But people do like fluff. They enjoy this kind of play, if just to laugh at the craziness and wonder ... if there's someone out there for them to love."

Same Time depicts a love affair between a homemaker and an accountant, both married, who meet by chance and fall in immediate lust/love. Over the years, Doris transforms herself from housewife to feminist, from hippie to businesswoman. (She'll have six different looks in the show.)

"When I was working on the script by myself," Seattle-based actress Beth Hallaren says, "Doris seemed really witty -- every line was quick and kind of cold. When you continually have to give snappy remarks, you start to feel mean. But when you're rehearsing scenes with another person, you can play the teasing angle, and it becomes more positive and playful."

That other person is Cameron Lewis, who's taking on a character much less flamboyant than his ebullient Cosmo in Singin' in the Rain last year at the Civic. "That show was Cameron's audition" for this one, says Rosevear. George, who's more conservative and guilt-ridden than Doris, eventually learns to be less deceptive, more in touch with his feelings.

Movie footage and still photos of presidents, wars and pop music groups from the '50s to the '70s will fill the costume-changing and furniture-shuffling interludes between scenes. In addition, Rosevear is filming her two actors around town: They'll appear in miniature movies hinting at Doris and George's continuing emotional connection. It's about more than just the sex.

Of course, you could just rent the Ellen Burstyn-Alan Alda movie version, but there's the immediacy of a stage production. Besides, the passage of time has tweaked the timeliness of Same Time's themes. "There are still wars, obviously. People still struggle with their marriages. Women struggle in the workplace and with their families," Rosevear says. But a stage production today treats those themes in terms of the present, she says, while "the movie sees them more through the eyes of 1978."

Even fluff can have emotional impact. In the theater, fluff has legs.

Same Time, Next Year runs at Spokane Interplayers Ensemble through Nov. 3. Visit or call 455-PLAY.

FAHRENHEIT 451 & r &

at Gonzaga University, Oct. 19-28 & r & & r &

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & W & lt;/span & e all read it in high school, and we all missed the point. Readers associate Fahrenheit 451 with censorship; even its title refers to the temperature at which paper incinerates. (You know, like at book-burnings.)

But Ray Bradbury himself -- a Pulitzer winner this year -- has been saying for years that no, Fahrenheit 451 is about how we have allowed TV to fry our brains with factoids and flash-in-the-pan trivia. The totalitarians aren't the culprits -- we are.

Bradbury's not-so-fictional government gets into the censorship business only after the public makes clear its fixation on the equivalent of athletes, celebrities and shopping channels. His story is about a fireman named Montag -- a destroyer of books who learns to love reading. It asks us to choose between personal happiness -- that's enough of a life-goal, isn't it? -- or following the rockier path of increasing our knowledge so we can serve others.

Judging from a recent rehearsal, director and theater professor Brian Russo plans to assault playgoers with a multimedia extravaganza, with information overload even out in the lobby before the show begins. Playgoers will squirm in their seats, literally, as they crane their necks to watch Montag (John Brummer) and his fire captain, Beatty (Jason Meade), run up and down aisles and across ledges. Scenic designer John Hofland's rolling, double-tier set pieces will create large-scale effects. An old man will hide inside enormous scrolls of parchment. Palm sensors will open clanging doors. Two giant video screens will deliver Big Brother-style pronouncements.

There's some silliness about a "mechanical hound" that will hunt you down like a dog if you even think about reading a book, and belabored scenes about futuristic housewives squealing in excitement over interactive, crudely personalized TV shows.

At one point, though, a woman named Hudson defies the firemen and martyrs herself. She'd rather go up in flames than live a valueless life without books. "The Hudson fire -- that sound of the woman burning -- creates a leap in Montag's mind," says Russo. "That was Bradbury's big idea here -- that burning books is like the Holocaust, because behind every book is a human being." And even before the Hudson fire, it's unsettling to watch book after book thump on the floor, dumped like so much garbage.

Who says plays should be only be pleasing and inoffensive? Possibly the same people who'd like to keep you self-satisfied and uninquisitive.

When you sit down in the Russell Theater for Fahrenheit 451, buckle up.

Fahrenheit 451 will be performed at Gonzaga's Russell Theater (east end of Admin Bldg.) on Oct. 19-20 and Oct. 25-27 at 7:30 pm, and on Oct. 20 and Oct. 28 at 2 pm. Tickets: $10. Call 323-6553 or 323-3606.

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