OCEANSIDE — Oceanside Theatre Company is bringing womens issues to center stage with “Parallel Lives,” a comedy by Mo Gaffney and Kathy Najimy. With its abundance of humor and quirky characters, the show is a far cry from the likes of “The Vagina Monologues” and “Menopause, the Musical”.
The play whisks through several comedy sketches that jump from two Supreme Beings planning the beginning of the world to men on their periods to Beverly Hills women contemplating plastic surgery.
“(The play) talks about women’s issues without being like, ‘Vaginas!’” explained the show’s lighting designer Ashley Jenks.
Directing her first piece for the Oceanside Theatre Company, Tracy Williams challenged actors Gerilyn Brault and Virginia Gregg to tackle over 20 characters each for the production.
Why did you choose “Parallel Lives”?
Williams: I saw this play when it first opened off Broadway… I had my mother with me and we sat on folding chairs on platforms and watched this play and we laughed ourselves sick all night long… We just kept talking and talking about this play, and all these years later I kept waiting for somebody to do it.
Was casting difficult for a play that requires two actors to play over 20 characters each?
Williams: Like casting King Lear, you don’t even put King Lear on your season unless you know you have one or more King Lears available to you. So before I would even commit or allow Oceanside Theatre Company to commit to this script, I was on the phone to some of the best actors that I have worked with…. When these two came in and read together (at the audition), there was a centeredness and a quality that was genuine about every single woman they portrayed for me that night.
How do you manage to play so many characters?
Gregg: Practice. It was nice that we took it a scene, maybe two scenes per day.
Brault: The first time I read the script I was extremely intimidated. But then going through it, I found it easier in a way from a typical show because the characters are enclosed in one scene.
Are you concerned about how audiences will react to the adult content in this play?
Brault: I feel like a lot of times, we don’t give them (the audience) the benefit of the doubt… I feel that I’m going to have some people, including my grandmother, go, “Well why were you so worried? This was fine.”
What resonates with you about this play?
Williams: Some of what you’re going to see in there is ridiculous. Like I said, the women (in the audience) are going to be pointing to themselves saying, “Oh my gosh, I do that.”
Gregg: I love (the sketch) “Annette and Gina,” and I love (the sketch) “Beverly Hills Face” because those two scenes resonate with me so much…. So many times if we don’t like something about ourselves, it’s the negative thoughts that we choose to listen to.
Brault: There’s one line that I get to say (in this play) as a teenager onstage, and I say, “I just wish I could make him love me as much as I love him. And I know if I had better skin and prettier hair he would love me back.” And I don’t know how many times I have thought that growing up and still now. In my mid-20s, I still think that.
“Parallel Lives” runs evening and matinee shows April 24 through May 5 at the Brooks Theatre in Oceanside. For tickets, visit oceansidetheatre.org.