Comedy's many empowering faces

Crowd of characters: Women stretch skills in sketch-based show

February 11, 2011 

Comedy's many empowering faces

Elizabeth Lord, left, and Lauren O'Neill star in "Parallel Lives."

COURTESY OF JOSH ANDERSON

Beginning tonight, Elizabeth Lord is appearing at The Midnight Sun in a feminist comedy show in which she plays a crowd of characters of various ages and both genders. For anyone who follows Lord, Olympia's queen of the one-woman show, that will sound familiar.

The surprising part: She didn’t write it. The show is Kathy Najimy and Mo Gaffney’s “Parallel Lives,” which covers topics ranging from menstruation and men’s big egos, to pickup lines and religion.

Told how much the show resembles one of Lord’s own creations, the storyteller, actress, director and manager of the Sun laughed.

“Maybe that’s why I’m so attracted to it,” she said. “It’s quite a show.”

Lord suggested the play for Prodigal Sun’s season and knew she wanted to appear in it, playing half of the sketch-based show’s 34 characters.

“When I pitched the show, I told them I wanted to be in it,” she said. “And then I said: ‘But I can’t really do that, can I? I’ll have to audition.’ And they said, ‘This is our theater company, and we can do whatever we want, so if we want to pre-cast it with you, we can.’ ”

Lord also chose her co-star, Lauren O’Neill, who hosts Tush Burlesque shows and is part of Saul Tannenbaum’s ensemble. (Tannenbaum’s real alter ego, Josh Anderson, is directing the show.)

“It’s a huge honor to have someone say, ‘I want to work with you in a two-person show,’ ” O’Neill said.

While the two play all the characters Gaffney and Najimy did, they didn’t divide the roles the same way.

“We sat down and realized that we still had to cast the show,” Lord said. “We had our two actresses, but there were all these characters that had to be assigned. We switched it up quite a bit.”

The sheer volume of characters – and lines – is a challenge, but the show has some of the fluid feeling of improv, O’Neill said. “It’s almost organic. You can tell that when they were workshopping it, they just did a lot of talking as these characters and what came out was pretty honest and pretty natural.”

The fact that there are 34 characters (in 15 scenes, so there are times when an actress is playing more than one character within a single scene) helps give the play a deeper meaning.

“I think the point behind the show is to do everything and allow that to reveal how similar we all are,” O’Neill said. “Elizabeth and I both play children around the age of 6 or 7, and then later in the show, we play 70-year-old women.

“It’s just this little series of moments.”

Parallel Lives

What: Prodigal Sun Productions presents the sketch-comedy show developed by comedian-authors Mo Gaffney and Kathy Najimy. It will feature Elizabeth Lord and Lauren O’Neill.

When: 8 p.m. today and Saturday plus Feb. 17-20 and 24-26

Where: The Midnight Sun Performance Space, 113 Columbia St. N.W., Olympia

Tickets: $12; pay what you can for the Feb. 20 performance

More information: 360-250-2721 or www.prodigalsunproductions.org or www.brownpapertickets.com

Also: The show is suggested for mature audiences.

Kathy Najimy coming to town

Kathy Najimy, who co-wrote “Parallel Lives,” will perform with the Seattle Women’s Chorus Feb. 20 in Olympia – in direct conflict with a performance of her play.

But maybe she could see the show if she’s in town for more than the evening? That’s the hope of “Lives” actor Lauren O’Neill, who works at The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, where Najimy will perform.

“It’s Lauren’s greatest hope to convince Kathy to come see our production,” said Elizabeth Lord, the other half of the “Lives” cast. “It would be terrifying to have the author sitting in the audience watching our work, but it would be a great honor as well.”

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