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Scottie Bowers and Jenny Jones make a well-developed impression in "Parallel Lives"

"Lives" Full of Laughter

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There's a difference between doing an impression and developing a character. Too often, comic actors settle for the former, having neither the time nor the talent to do the latter. Scottie Bowers and Jenny Jones are different. In "Parallel Lives," the latest from Richmond Triangle Players, these two talented actors don't just offer impersonations, but deliver full-bodied portrayals of characters ranging from a preschooler in church to a strung-out whore on the street. While the variety of people they play is impressive, the satisfaction in watching this often fall-down funny show comes from the depth Bowers and Jones give to their roles.

They are assisted by a script that, in a series of 13 short vignettes, mixes uplifting "love your neighbor" themes with copious amounts of humor. But don't be scared away: This is no strident "message" show. While tolerance of gays is exemplified by a lame-brained Valley Girl, homosexual self-importance is cut to satirical shreds by a couple of lesbian performance artists. The ridiculous pretentiousness of their act brought actual squeals of laughter from the audience. Instead of offering platitudes, the play dramatizes the lives — and forgives the failings — of a kooky but never unbelievable array of oddballs.

Bowers, a tall, heavy-set redhead, uses her physicality to add strength to characters like her Russian peasant woman. However, she just as easily plays the coquette in the form of a broken-down barfly. Short and swarthy, Jones is hilarious in the show's male roles, like her convincing surfer dude. She also gets some of the meatiest parts, like the recovering bulimic dealing with thoughtless comments about her weight. The play closes with a scatter-gun roundup, the two actresses jumping from one character to the next with breakneck speed. It's an impressive final flourish in an evening full of significant fun.

"Parallel Lives" plays on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. through May 22 at Fieldens Cabaret Theatre then moves to Barksdale Theatre May 28-June 12. Tickets are $12. Call 346-8113 for

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