Parallel Lives opens with two angels working out the advance details of humankind, starting with skin tones, an assignment from “The Big Guy” upstairs. His name is Cliff.
Women, the angels decide, will bear the children. To compensate, men are given large egos.
There are only two performers in this screwball comedy, which was written (and initially performed) by Kathy Najimi and Maureen Gaffney as The Kathy and Mo Show.
“We both do about 19 characters in 90 minutes, with accents and everything,” says Sheila Lynne Bolda, who’s performing (and co–producing, and co–directing) Parallel Lives in July alongside Michelle Padgett. “It’s very loose; it’s kind of got the improv–y feel — we’re pulling props and costume pieces left and right. It’s not tech–heavy.
“But at the same time, it really puts our acting chops to the test. She and I just love playing off each other.”
Indeed, Bolda and Padgett, who met in 2010 while working on a Savannah production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, discovered during a later performance of Eve Ensler’s The Good Body that they have a marvelous comedic chemistry together.
Parallel Lives, says Bolda, was her idea. “I tricked her, actually,” she laughs. “I had originally wanted to revive The Good Body, but then I realized I wanted to do something I’ve never done before.
“I couldn’t have picked a more difficult piece. I knew I had Michelle trapped, so I was like ‘Let’s do this instead!’ And she was like, ‘Are you nuts?’ I said yes, I’m certifiably insane.”
The characters range from loopy barflies to Roman Catholic schoolgirls. And yes, from time to time, the women play men.
Then there’s the “Disney Moms Support Group,” with the mothers of classic Disney cartoon characters (from Bambi to Ariel) bitching about their cinematic fate (when the movie starts, they’re either dead, or about to be).
Belle’s mother identifies herself as Monique Andthebeast. Snow White’s Mom is named Betty (figure it out). The mother clownfish’s story (from Finding Nemo) is particularly ... horrific.
Although there are only two people onstage, it’s their job to make you see, hear and laugh at the entire group.
“It’s crazy fun, and it’s very challenging because of all the different accents, and trying to get the characters straight,” explains Bolda. “So we’ve put together a little Power Point that has all the different Disney characters in the background. So people can keep who’s who straight.”
Bolda and Padgett appear as two dim–witted New York teens who discover the similarities between West Side Story and Romeo and Juliet. “We have so much fun with that,” says Bolda. “It’s kind of like Jersey Shore without the T&A.”
Look under the surface, and you’ll find a unifying thread. “Michelle likes the idea of getting into all the different minds and psyches of each one of the characters,” Bolda points out. “The whole concept of parallel lives is that they never intersect, but you get to see how everybody kind of wants the same thing.
“As she says, they all want to be loved, they all want to look great, or be recognized for who they are, and make their way in the world. It’s a very interesting look at these lives that kind of go together, but don’t really. You don’t make the connection unless you see them side by side.”
Men need not presume that Parallel Lives is a feminist rant or a “woman’s play.” It’s not The Vagina Monologues (which Bolda does every February at Club One), nor is it Menopause The Musical.
“We do poke fun at the whole ‘secretive business’ of getting your period, which nobody really talks about, even to this day,” Bolda says. “But it’s still kind of funny if you put it in a male spin.”
Bolda’s boyfriend has been running her lines with her, and she swears he’s in a constant state of hilarity.
“And then there’s the whole Sister Woman Sister, the Holly and Molly Show, which is the little feminist moment where they’re talking about their vaginas and their Golden Glorious Sisterhood.
“But it’s kind of poking fun at it at the same time. It’s like the flip side to Eve Ensler.”
She still believes in Ensler’s powerful feminist words, Bolda says. “We just needed a little break — so that we can laugh at ourselves and our ridiculousness.”
The Drama Bums: Parallel Lives
Where: Muse Arts Warehouse, 703D Louisville Rd.
When: July 12–14, 19–21. All shows at 8 p.m.
Tickets: $12 adults, $10 seniors, students and military
Reservations: (912) 224–6513