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‘Parallel Lives’ is a straight-up delight

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By Sara Miller

The scene opens with two women dressed as angels. They sit on the “board of intelligent design,” overseeing the creation of Earth and comparing the colors of humans like swatches. “White’s a little bland,” says one. She’s worried that “white” people might feel inferior to the more colorful people. The sadistic pair go on to assign the roles of which sex “gets” to give birth, and they heartily laugh at recompensing the men with oversized egos.

“Parallel Lives,” presented by the Evergreen Players, builds from there. The angels slip into the roles of human beings and proceed to portray 17 different characters in the span of two acts. The characters, played by Lisa DeCaro and Gail Montgomery, run the gamut from a young high school couple on a first date to two retired Jewish women in New Jersey. These characters all have one thing in common — they portray the complex and often hilarious relationships in women’s lives. These include how women relate to men, among themselves as sisters, as lesbians, as friends — all the while poking fun at stereotypes and bringing to the surface the irony of everyday situations.

“The beauty of a two-person show is in the strength of the actress,” says Len Matheo, the show’s director. “Lisa and Gail are truly two of the best actresses in the Evergreen area skill-wise. What I am most proud of as the show’s director is casting these two women. With each day that they work together, the show is just blossoming into something even more honest and funny.”

Written in the 1980s by famous movie and television actresses Mo Gaffney and Kathy Najimy, “Parallel Lives” originated as stand-up comedy skits performed by the writers. Similar in structure to "Saturday Night Live," it parodies life as we know it, which is why the Evergreen audience will identify with many of the characters and situations.

Some of the stand-out sketches contain two Brooklynite teenagers who have just finished watching “West Side Story.” DeCaro’s gum-chomping, fast-talking teenybopper realizes that the movie is “just like ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ ” To which the equally “teenified” Montgomery replies, “You’re so right. What a rip-off!”

In another scene, the actresses portray a man and woman together in a country-western bar. In yet another, DeCaro and Montgomery are two 6-year-old Catholic girls talking about God. Their discussion continues as they evolve into their teens and finally adulthood, only to discover they’ve made the exact same mistakes in life that their parents committed.

The show is side-splitting as well as heart-wrenching as it deals with issues as seemingly simple as a woman’s morning routine to things as complex as abortion, homosexuality and teen pregnancy. Matheo is quick to add that even the most serious issues are treated with a light-hearted touch.

“My goal with the show is that the audience doesn’t feel like one side of any issue is being attacked. Both sides will hopefully walk out saying, ‘My point of view is being represented there,’ ” says Matheo. “We’re trying to play each vignette as honestly as possible.”

Honestly and humorously. In spite of the serious nature of some of the show’s topics, the bottom line is that life isn’t worth living unless you can laugh about it. And “Parallel Lives” proves that in life — especially a woman’s — there are many, many things about which we can laugh.

“Parallel Lives”

Presented by the Evergreen Players Jan. 15-31; Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. at Center/Stage, 27608 Fireweed Drive.

Tickets: Adults, $18; seniors, (60-plus), $14; students, $14; youths (12 and under), $8.

This show is rated PG-13 due to some mature themes and language.