Lisa Pelikan has slipped happily from acting into directing, perhaps because she has always known that helming was the job for her—even before she began acting. Her first full effort, the exquisite two-hander 'night, Mother, currently at Interact and starring Annie Abbott and Rebecca Tilney, has finally given Pelikan the chance to test herself—and succeed.
Pelikan made her film debut as the young Julia in Julia. Onstage she has starred in, among others, the world premiere of Only a Broken String of Pearls, a one-woman play about Zelda Fitzgerald, and the world premiere of Arthur Miller's The American Clock; recently she starred in Alan Ayckbourn's lively Communicating Doors at the Odyssey Theatre.
She and Abbott had worked together last summer, when Pelikan "was able to give her some very helpful hints." So Abbott asked her to direct her pet project, Marsha Norman's 'night, Mother, in which Abbott would play Mama. Now how to cast the suicidal daughter? "When Becca read," said Pelikan, "I got a visceral sense that she understood what suicide is and what could cause someone to take their life. As long as she as an individual was a healthy human being, I felt she could do it." Also, Pelikan noted, Tilney is more beautiful than most actors cast in the role. "I wanted the suicide to have nothing to do with externals. A lot of people think if you're beautiful you have everything."
Then Pelikan worked on making her actors mother and daughter. In life the two look nothing alike. Both dyed their hair, then honed a common accent and speech patterns. Said Pelikan, "We worked very hard on that so that they came from the same place vocally, then space work so that they had grown up in that home." Finally, the three delved into the language and relationships over the fortuitously long rehearsal period.
But the director credits her 7-year-old with giving her the most useable qualities for direction: "compassion, patience, love, and an open heart."
"'Night, Mother" continues at Interact Theatre Company, 5215 Bakman Ave., N. Hollywood. Tues.-Wed. 8 p.m. Through Apr. 30. $15-18. (818) 765-8732, ext. 23.