Be My Baby Opens at Mountain Playhouse!

Married lead actors star in 'Be My Baby' at Mountain Playhouse
By Carla DeStefano

Susan J. Jacks and Nick Ruggeri of New York City have spent more than four years building a strong marriage. However, a complicated journey set to begin this month will have the two at odds -- at least on the stage.

Jacks and Ruggeri, veteran Mountain Playhouse performers, will star in the Jennerstown theater's next production, "Be My Baby," opening Tuesday.

An irascible Scotsman, John (Ruggeri), and an uptight English woman, Maude (Jacks), have a strong dislike for one another. But when John's ward and Maude's niece marry and decide to adopt a baby, the two attempt to put their differences aside to travel to California to pick up the baby.

Delays along the way add to the comedy. As the pair are forced to care for the infant, John and Maude discover things about themselves and each other.
"It's a rare occurrence for a husband and wife to be hired by the same company, and even more rare to play a married couple on stage," Ruggeri says. "This play gives us the opportunity to explore a part of our relationship that didn't exist before. We didn't hate each other when we were first married. So now we can play around with an opportunity that did not become for us and ask ourselves questions like 'What would it have been like if ...' "

While rare, this isn't the first time Jacks and Ruggeri have acted as a married couple during their 10 years with Mountain Playhouse. Although not all their married roles mirror the real-life relationship the two share, Jacks says the couple do have an advantage while performing.

"Our relationship informs the work on stage. We have such a trust and such a knowledge of each other, that it helps us," she says. "We can play an unhappy couple, yet we are so close to one another and understand each other, it helps the honesty of the onstage relationship."

Ruggeri says trust is key to working well together on stage.

"(Trust) is a very important part when you work on stage with any other actor," he says. "We build up that relationship and trust with each other. (Susan and I) work on that all the time off the stage, so on the stage, we don't have to spend the time building up that trust level, because it's already there."

The two met almost 30 years ago, as cast members in a show in Virginia. Although they went their separate ways after that show, they reunited at the Mountain Playhouse, where they've been impressing audiences with their versatility. This year marks Ruggeri's 16th season at the Playhouse, and Jacks celebrates her 10th year.

Coincidentally, when "Be My Baby" premiered in 2005 in Houston, the roles of John and Maude were played by married couple Hal Holbrook and Dixie Carter. The show at the Mountain Playhouse will be directed by Tom Schaller, an actor himself and part of the theater faculty of the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School, in Midland, Beaver County.

Rounding out the cast are Scott Andrews as Christy (John's Scottish ward), Eliza Chetlin as Gloria (Maude's niece), Seana Hollingsworth and Frederic Heringes.

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