Dickens, BART to open season with ‘Same Time, Next Year’

Coastal Point photos • Tyler Valliant: Rusty Hesse, left, will direct BART's fall production of ‘Same Time, Next Year’ starring E.J. Panico, center, and Jeff Martini, right.Coastal Point photos • Tyler Valliant: Rusty Hesse, left, will direct BART's fall production of ‘Same Time, Next Year’ starring E.J. Panico, center, and Jeff Martini, right.After a summer hiatus, the Bethany Area Repertory Theatre (BART) will be back at the Dickens Parlour Theatre in Millville next month, ready to headline their 2016-2017 schedule with Bernard Slade’s romantic comedy-drama “Same Time, Next Year.”

The two-character production, the opening night of which is slated for Thursday, Sept. 15, will star Ocean View’s Jeff Martini as George and Seaford’s E.J. Panico as Doris, both actors bringing with them vast stage and showbiz experience.

Martini is a BART veteran, having starred in such shows as last year’s sold-out season-opener, “Hate Mail.”

Panico will be making her BART debut but has appeared in several Possum Point Players’ productions in Georgetown, including “I Remember Mama,” as Marta “Mama” Hanson, and “Move Over, Mrs. Markham,” as Joanna Markham.

“We have two very experienced actors on stage,” said director Rusty Hesse. “They’re both really fine actors.”

Hesse is back in the director’s chair for the first time since “Hate Mail,” after serving as assistant director for several productions in BART’s 2015-2016 lineup.

“It’s been about a year since I’ve directed anything just by myself,” said the theater veteran, who has more than 1,500 Broadway productions under his belt. “It’s great to be doing it again.”

Like “Hate Mail,” “Same Time, Next Year” is also a comedy, revolving around the play’s protagonists as they embark on an extramarital affair that spans for more than a quarter-century.

Taking place in the same hotel room during that span, the once-a-year liaison makes for much slapstick comedy opportunity while reflecting the influential strain of societal pressures on relationships.

“Because it spans 26 years, we get to see the characters grow and change over time, and understand how what takes place in everyday life can influence them and their relationship,” Hesse said. “We’re all having such a fun time doing it because it has some really great comedy moments.”

“One of the aspects of this play that I love is the evolving character that I play,” added Martini. “Because each of the six scenes is set five years apart, it really is like playing six different characters. Shaped by events in his life, with his family, and the world, my character becomes a different person over the years. Of course, the relationship between both changes and grows as well.”

After last year’s sold-out success of “Hate Mail,” Hesse said that he and BART are hoping for a similar showing for “Same Time, Next Year” and for the start of the season.

“People really helped us kick off that season last year with ‘Hate Mail,’ and we’re hoping that this show will do the same,” he said. “‘Hate Mail’ had a lot of the same themes, so we like this type of comedy, wonderful play on words — the writers of both plays are very adept.”

While opening night is scheduled for Thursday, Sept, 15, “Same Time, Next Year” is scheduled for five additional performances, on Friday, Sept. 16; Saturday, Sept. 17; Thursday, Sept. 22; Friday, Sept. 23; and Saturday, Sept. 24.

Doors at the Dickens Parlour Theatre will open at 6:30 p.m., with the show times at 7:30 p.m.

The Dickens Parlour Theatre is located at 35715 Atlantic Avenue in Millville. For tickets, visit www.dptmagic.com or call (302) 829-1071.