Review: ‘Parallel Lives’

The satiric essence of the distaff comedy duo, Kathy Najimy and Mo Gaffney, flows through "Parallel Lives," an abridged revival of the 1991 comedy review "The Kathy and Mo Show." Eschewing a slavish attempt at imitation, Gioia Marchese and Emily Schweitz still manage to channel the wit and zany charm of the original team, displaying an impressive comedic range of their own. Although some of the bits have become dated, helmer Elina de Santos knows where the laughs are, astutely keeping the pace brisk and the between-scene lag to a minimum.

The satiric essence of the distaff comedy duo, Kathy Najimy and Mo Gaffney, flows through “Parallel Lives,” an abridged revival of the 1991 comedy review “The Kathy and Mo Show.” Eschewing a slavish attempt at imitation, Gioia Marchese and Emily Schweitz still manage to channel the wit and zany charm of the original team, displaying an impressive comedic range of their own. Although some of the bits have become dated, helmer Elina de Santos knows where the laughs are, astutely keeping the pace brisk and the between-scene lag to a minimum. 

 Marchese and Schweitz portray nearly two dozen characters, surveying topics such as religion, sexism, homophobia, stereotypes, relationships, communication and role-playing. Wisely, all their needed props and costume pieces are onstage, facilitating rapid character changes.

Highlights include the first- and second-act openers, featuring less-than-facile supreme beings treating the setting up of the human race as a work in progress. Both Marchese and Schweitz exude an infectious aura as these ditzy deities work out whether the man or the woman should have the baby and which bodily portal it should come out of.   

They are particularly adroit at portraying children. “Period Piece” is a delightfully obtuse survey of Scripture from a child’s point of view. When confronted with the reality of an eternity in Hell, they pose the question, “What if it’s time to go home now?” Teens “Annette and Gina” find themselves fixating on the doomed lovers from “West Side Story” (it is so much like “Romeo and Juliet,” they observe), offering their own caustic critique of Maria’s betrayal by best friend Anita.

The duo also manages to slip adroitly into male personas. Borrowing a theme from “Groundhog Day,” Schweitz achieves a believable masculine swagger as perennially inebriated married man Hank, who makes his nightly barroom marriage proposal to sad sack Karen Sue (Marchese), who is always grateful for any attention she can get.

Not all the sketches ignite. “Silent Torture,” a video underscored perusal of two monumentally disparate lives, is underwhelming and overly long. Also misfiring is “Las Hermanas,” a tedious profile of two elderly women who sign up for Women’s Studies at the local college. 

 “Parallel Lives” does not have legs to move beyond its current incarnation but does serve as an impressive showcase for two talented thesps.  Enhancing their efforts are the synergistic sets, lighting and sound of Katie Abiad, CJ Longhammer and Michael Patterson, respectively.

Parallel Lives

The Complex Theater, Hollywood; 65 seats; $20 top

Production

A Bridge West presentation of a comedy review in two acts by Kathy Najimy and Mo Gaffney, based on the "Kathy and Mo Show," featuring Gioia Marchese and Emily Schweitz. Directed by Elina de Santos.

Creative

Sets, Katie Abiad; lighting, CJ Longhammer; sound, Michael Patterson.  Opened Nov. 2. Reviewed Nov. 16. Runs through Dec. 9.  Running time: 1 HOURS, 45 MINUTES.
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