Director Kerry Christianson on "Parallel Lives"
Parallel Lives, a play based on a series of hilarious, 1980s Off-Broadway shows by Kathy Najimy and Mo Gaffney, opens this Friday, July 13 at Theater Schmeater, directed by Kerry Christianson, and starring Jennifer Chadwick and Megan Ahiers in a variety of roles (everything from angels to Texas bar patrons). Christianson spoke with us about the script, the difficult casting process and comedies that make you cry.
What were your feelings after you first read the script?
I laughed. Then I started thinking about who I could potentially cast and with all the amazing women in this town I thought I could get a really amazing cast. I watched a couple of clips from the original Kathy & Mo Show just to see, “Ok how did they do this?” because on paper it’s a little confusing sometimes. I have not looked at the video since. I decided let’s do our own thing and if we run into issues we’ll look at the source. For the most part we didn’t have to.
What was the casting process like?
I went into it knowing I was going to be challenged because they invited in about 15 women and they were all amazing. Of everybody who auditioned, I called back everyone except for one. It was just a matter of matching them all up and we literally had them read in pairs so that everyone read with everyone else, so that I could see each pair. It was about chemistry and how do these guys work together?
What struck you about Meghan and Jennifer as a pair?
I liked the fact that I had a brunette, a blonde—that they didn’t look identical. I would have been fine with a redhead, whatever, but they had that going for them and so they had a nice appearance onstage together. Megan’s also younger than Jen. Jen can play younger than she is but she also brings that wisdom of her age. Megan has this incredible talent and brings a lot of youthful energy.
Do you prefer comedies with an edge?
I do. The comedy I did two years ago, Pageant Play, was hysterically funny but it had this underlying gut punch to it. It was the only comedy I’ve ever seen where everybody’s crying at the end. We had this visual at the end where everybody was like, “Oh my god!” They’d been laughing the whole time and then all of a sudden everybody’s in tears—including me.
There are going to be a few moments in Parallel Lives where the audience is going to get relief from the laughter, they’re going to be brought into something a little more serious—and then they’ll be laughing again two minutes later. It’s nice to have the emotional roller coaster or wave, if you will, that you get to ride. The show is funny but there are some serious issues going on—not only big issues like abortion or whatever, but family issues. There’s one beautiful piece called “Three Sisters,” where there’s a discord between a couple of sisters and you see these two people find their way to some kind of connection. It may not be perfect but they find their way closer than they were.