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Lovers' Walk -

October 28, 2002

By KEVIN CLAPP

kevinc@herald-mail.com

Mackenzie Phillips is not the poster child for boring, bland childhood.

After all, you can't become the focus of an "E! True Hollywood Story" without the sordid detail or two.

Which is one of the reasons why the actress embraced her role in "Same Time Next Year," which comes to The Maryland Theatre Wednesday, Oct. 30.

"When we meet Doris she's in her 20s, a very naive, innocent woman in the '50s and that's certainly not my experience," Phillips, a child-star in the late '70s/early '80s sitcom "One Day at a Time," says. "I can not even remember being naive and innocent, so the challenge of playing someone so childlike is fun, to put me in my back pocket and go on stage as a sweet little woman."

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In the romantic comedy, the second Broadway at The Maryland series performance of the season, Phillips and Adrian Zmed share the stage as Doris and George, two lovers with families of their own who meet up once a year from 1951 to 1975.

Written by Bernard Slade, the two-person tour de force skips the days of their lives, instead popping in on the couple at five-year intervals to see how time has affected them.

"It's interesting now, in 2002, to look at what that perspective was. I don't think, necessarily, relationships are like this anymore," Zmed says. "The psychology is a little different this way. It's funny, an interesting, nostalgic look at couples from the '60s and '70s."

Phillips has limited theater experience; Zmed a more extensive resume that includes roles in "Falsettos," "Evita" and "Lend Me a Tenor."

But they shared the stage in the revival of "Grease" and their friendship has added a resonance to this tour.

"It's like a tennis match and you cannot drop the volley, and we trust ourselves," Zmed says. "If it's a complete stranger it takes a while to gain that kind of trust on stage."

And by traversing a generation in six scenes, Phillips says watching the maturation of two people as they age creates a universality audiences can relate to.

"I think the thing that's so appealing about the show is it touches so many of us in a nostalgic way," she says. "It touches on events we can all look back on with sadness and excitement and all of those emotions that nostalgia brings on."

A veteran of film ("Grease 2") and television ("T.J. Hooker"), Zmed was recruited at the last minute for George, an accountant who shifts from conservative to enlightened throughout the play. In contrast, Phillips' Doris travels from housewife to hippy to sharp businesswoman.

Though he continues in a recurring role on the NBC soap "Passions," Zmed's first love is theater, and "Same Time" gave him a chance to ease back onto the stage after tearing up his knee during a tour of "Chicago."

Admittedly, it took the actor time to become comfortable as George.

"When I first read this play I said 'Hmmm. It's well written. It's funny. Are people going to get it? Are they going to relate to this stuff?'," Zmed says. His worries were assuaged after a preview in St. Cloud, Minn., and early performances where audiences were enthusiastic in their endorsement.

"I get it now, having done it for a couple months. It's a nostalgic look at everybody's life. It's like 'Grease' for an older crowd," he says. "It's life in your 20s, your 30s, your 40s and a little bit of your 50s, of who you were and how you changed and how people change over the years and, at the very end, how people don't change in a funny little twist."

Nearing the end of their three-month engagement, the actors hope their Hagerstown audience embraces the material as much as they have.

Having two months to study the show, its characters and lessons, Zmed says there is a simple beauty to its message.

"Sometimes you are more honest with your best friend than with your own spouse," he says. "And I think what (Slade's) trying to do is hit you over the head and say maybe it's time for your spouse to be your best friend."

If you go . . .

"Same Time Next Year," a romantic comedy starring Mackenzie Phillips and Adrian Zmed

8 p.m.

Wednesday, Oct. 30

The Maryland Theatre

21 S. Potomac St.

Hagerstown

Tickets cost $45 to $55 and are available at The Maryland Theatre box office, 27 S. Potomac St., or by calling 301-790-3500.

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