Love doesn't choose sides and it isn't always fair to relationships - especially marriages. Sometimes, though, love found through infidelity can be an awakening.
It can also, as in "Same Time, Next Year," the romantic comedy that opens tonight at Workshop Theatre, strengthen a marriage. The premise sounds outrageous, but isn't love just that?
"It wasn't a hard play to wrap my head around," said Jocelyn Sanders, the play's director. "Because it says comedy, I can't as a director let my preconceived ideas and judgments about infidelity seep into the play
"If you let the infidelity creep in, it's going to muddy your view about the characters."
Set in a cottage of a country inn, the affair of Doris and George is intriguing. Vicky Saye Henderson is Doris, and Chip Stubbs is George.
After meeting in a restaurant and spending the night together, they fall in love. They continue the affair by meeting one weekend a year. Written by Bernard Slade, "Same Time, Next Year," which received a Tony nomination for best play and an Oscar nod for the screen adaptation, provides the audience with six of Doris and George's encounters over a 25-year period.
Gasp! Cheating for a quarter century? What will the audience think?
"The actors and myself have had numerous discussions," Sanders said. "We're still having discussions as we approach opening night. As a director, I can't let my head go into what the audience will think.
"My job as a director is to make these two characters likable. If these two characters are likable, then you're going to find yourself in the theater laughing."
And relating to the central themes of the story: Love is impossible to ignore, and some kinds of love are found outside of a marriage.
"I don't think that anyone in the audience won't be able to relate - unless they're under the age of 30 or haven't taken a wife or husband yet," Sanders said.
"The story of the play is not infidelity. The story of the play is that these two people find each other in a moment in their lives when just a bit is lacking in their lives."
Somehow, Doris and George's connection doesn't destroy their respective marriages. Maybe because the infidelity isn't about sex; it's about someone tapping into places others don't reach.
It's about friendship.
"In a way, I wish that life was as simple as this play," said Sanders, who has known couples who have divorced. "If the infidelity had happened like this, maybe their marriages would've been strengthened.
"(The play) kind of breaks down what infidelity is. The first thing you think about is sex. That's not the story in 'Same Time, Next Year.'"
The story is also about communication between partners, and Sanders raved about the on-stage communication between Stubbs and Henderson, who have played the roles at Workshop before.
"It's fantastic. I couldn't have asked for two better actors for this show," she said. "They respond so well to each other on stage. Instinctively, they know what do."
And they're good friends. Isn't that the most important thing in a relationship?
IF YOU GO
WHEN: 8 tonight and Saturday, Wednesday-Nov. 14 and Nov. 18-21 and 3 p.m. Nov. 15
WHERE: Workshop Theatre, 1136 Bull St.
TICKETS: $8 to $18
INFORMATION: (803) 799-6551 or www.workshoptheatre.com