Same Time in a New Place/An Interview with the Stars as Broadway Comes to Hagerstown

In Bernard Sladeís Same Time, Next Year, Mackenzie Phillips (American Graffiti, TVís One Day at a Time, So Weird) and Adrian Zmed (Grease 2, T.J. Hooker) play star-crossed strangers who meet by chance and embark upon a twenty-five year love affair, rendezvousing annually, one weekend per year. Though happily married to others, with families of their own, the coupleís relationship remains truly unique, and even as they grow as individuals independently from one another, they continue to grow old together - loving, losing, laughing, and, ultimately, living.

The Tony ģ nominated romantic comedy, playing October 30 at the Maryland Theatre as part of the Broadway at the Maryland series, is a story of progression, romance and infidelity, as seen through the eyes of two people who loved a lifeís worth, one weekend per year at a time.

Recently, the Same Time duo, via separate telephone conversations, talked to the Picket News about visiting Hagerstown, their chemistry, and the play they are both so proud of.

* What appealed to you about these characters?

MP: Doris is so completely different than I am. Sheís in her early 20s when we first see her and sheís a very innocent [person]. It was very much a challenge for me to play a character that is so unaware of how the world can be. I enjoy a character who hasnít had my life experiences.

AZ: The number one thing - George is a fun character for me to play. Heís more neurotic than Woody Allen. He has a great arc. Thatís one of the things that appealed to me. [And] Bernard Slade is a very funny writer. The play simply takes these slices of life... and starts to examine them. Life happens. I think thatís what Slade was trying to say.

* What is involved, and what technique is used, in portraying a character that grows over a span of twenty-five years?

MP: I just do what feels right. I donít really have a certain technique. Iíve just found what works for me.

AZ: Throughout the play, my character ages from his early 20s to his early 50s. While Iím not quite in my 50s yet, I can obviously relate to all of these, and try to project this at my most mature place. Sometimes people say that a character in his 50s should be cast in his 50s. But I think that someone who is cast in their [40s] might have a closer perspective, because they can remember what it was like when they were in their 20s and 30s, and can imagine what it might be like ten years from now.

* How has the touring experience been?

MP: Weíve been all over the place. We just started our hell week - twenty cities in twenty-one days. But weíre doing the luxury tour bus thing now, instead of flying, so itís ok. Both Adrian and I have dogs, so it makes it [easier].

AZ: Weíre having a blast. Iím not crazy about being on the road, but Iíve done it before. And this is such an easy show to move. Itís the first time Iíve ever done a show this small - two people. Iíve also never played small towns - only slightly bigger cities, like Philadelphia - but what Iíve been discovering while driving through is that these areas have really wonderful theaters. Itís a great thing, because with such a nice, small company, we can bring Broadway quality [to smaller towns.]

* What was it like working with one another? How was the chemistry?

MP: Adrian and I have worked together before, for ten months in the Broadway production of Grease. I played Rizzo and he played Danny Zuko (His Broadway debut - Ed.) We know each other quite well. Weíre friends.

AZ: It was very easy for us to fall into these roles. When we started, we had a read-through of the script, and afterwards, both of us weíre just like, ďOk, letís go to stage.Ē The relationship of trust is a given. [You need that] in a two-character play like this. If one of us is having a bad night, the other picks up the slack. Itís like a great tennis match.

MP: Weíve certainly had a blast.

* Youíve both had extensive careers in theater, television and film. (Mackenzie Phillips, in addition to her roles in George Lucasí American Graffiti and as Julie in televisionís One Day at a Time and mother, Molly, in Disneyís So Weird, has appeared in several television movies, and can be seen in the upcoming Disney film, Double Teamed. Adrian Zmed, well known for his role as Romano on T.J. Hooker with William Shatner, has also appeared on Murder She Wrote and Silk Stalkings, among many others; in the films Grease 2 and Bachelor Party; and in musicals Falsettos and Big.) What medium do you prefer?

AZ: Iíll take theater over anything! I could have stayed in Hollywood, but Iíll be honest with you, it got to the point that I had done my third or fourth erotic thriller, and I [wasnít getting any] challenging roles. So I decided to go back to New York and be an actor [again.] Thereís so much more fulfillment for me in theater than anything else. I can count on one hand the projects that Iím proud of in Hollywood. I can name fifteen to twenty [theater productions.] To be in front of a live audience instead of a glass lens - to feel that energy... Itís an ancient art form. Theaterís been around for a long, long time. Itís kind of like a communion. You give to the audience, the audience gives back to you. Itís very cleansing. Itís a great feeling.

MP: I enjoy the entire creative process. But generally, itís whatever keeps me closest to home, which is usually TV. Being on stage is very exciting, but Iím very much a homebody and a mother... The show wraps on November 25 and I canít wait to go home and make dinner for my son.

* Any favorite roles?

MP: I really loved Molly, the mom I played in Disneyís So Weird.

AZ: There have been a lot of characters who have been very close to my heart, but a very different piece of work I was in was an opera, Falsettos. It was brilliantly written, very special.

* Anything else you would like people to know about Same Time, Next Year?

AZ: Iíve always admired stand-up comedians. Hereís a person who gets on stage with a mic and no one around him, and makes you forget your life for an hour. Same Time was the first straight play Iíve done in 12 years. Itís bizarre to me to get a standing ovation at the end, and Iím thinking, ďBut, wait, I didnít sing and dance for you!Ē It taught me a little lesson - you donít need fireworks.

MP: Weíve all gotten so connected to special effects. [But this] is where we all started, you know? If youíre willing to suspend your disbelief for a while, you can come in and watch these two people create a story. Itís a very comfortable evening.

Same Time, Next Year plays in Hagerstown, at the Maryland Theatre , for one night only, Monday, October 30, 2002 at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at the Maryland Theatre Box Office, 21-27 South Potomac Street in Hagerstown. Tickets can also be purchased over the phone at 301-790-3500. Ticket prices range from $45-$55. For more information, visit the Maryland Theatreís web site at www.mdtheatre.org.