In the beginning, there were two slightly sadistic supreme beings.
The two-woman show “Parallel Lives” opens with these two “creators” as they plan the world and determine the gender dynamics of the human race. From there, the show follows two actresses playing men and women of all ages in a series of comedic and dramatic vignettes on the rituals of modern life.
“Parallel Lives” opens Thursday at the Lake City Playhouse in Coeur d’Alene and continues through March 12. Stars Kathie Doyle-Lipe and Melody Deatherage portray multiple characters throughout the production.
Director Troy Nickerson said the show required two dynamic performers capable of changing characters on the fly and right in front of the audience.
“They have to have an arsenal of voices and characters and dialects, from 3-year-olds to 17-year-olds to men,” Nickerson said. “It’s one of those shows that can be extremely funny but within two or three lines be really poignant. These two ladies are incredibly talented in both these areas.”
Nickerson had worked with Doyle-Lipe and Deatherage before, and the two actresses also had experience together onstage. That chemistry and comfort was especially important, as the show came together on an accelerated timeline.
“It’s a very condensed process compared to what you normally have,” Deatherage said. “You usually have four to six weeks from first rehearsal to opening. We’re putting this together in three weeks.”
The prep is especially accelerated for Nickerson, who is serving as the Playhouse’s interim artistic director. He will also direct “Jesus Christ Superstar” at the Playhouse, which will open March 31. The small cast and limited staging of “Parallel Lives” allowed Nickerson to get a quality play together ahead of the more boisterous musical.
“This is definitely a little more frazzled time for me. There’s something exciting about that too,” Nickerson said.
That sense of urgency feeds into the show’s subject matter. “Parallel Lives” is based on an interconnected series of sketches by comedians Kathy Najimy and Mo Gaffney. The original staging of the show dates to the late ’80s, but the show maintains a fresh perspective on gender parity and relationships.
“Most of it is still very applicable and topical to what’s going on now between folks and how we relate to each other,” Deatherage said. “There are a few references that we’ve updated, but in terms of the issues people are dealing with between men and women, or women friends, it’s relevant.”
Deatherage and Doyle-Lipe jump in and out of a wide variety of characters, sometimes within the same vignette, utilizing only slight costume changes or props. Doyle-Lipe said the small setting and prop changes help to keep both the audience and performers on track.
“We’re looking at which costumes there are so I remember who I am. It’s quite a challenge,” Doyle-Lipe said.
More than anything, Deatherage said her friendship and experience working with Doyle-Lipe helped to rein in the freewheeling material.
“There is such trust there with someone of her caliber and experience,” Deatherage said.
The controlled chaos of transforming into so many characters was what attracted both actresses to the show.
“You don’t get an opportunity to do this much variety,” Deatherage said. “That’s what I love most about it. Being able to really zone in and find the essence of the character through the physical presence or the voice. I love getting to play all those different colors.”
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