Real events are so outrageous these days that it sometimes seems satire and parody aren't possible. Then along comes "The Kathy & Mo Show: Parallel Lives," at the off-Broadway Westside Arts Theater, proving that oblique looks at life can be surprising and hilarious.
Kathy Najimy and Mo Gaffney write and perform an evening of duet vignettes, much in the way that Lily Tomlin has done a series of solo character portraits.The show is subtly feminist. It begins with the two women as angels deciding at the Creation how to organize the human race. They pick skin colors and worry that white people may feel inferior. They give men egos so they won't feel deprived while women bear the children.
We check back with the angels at the start of Act 2. About the white people, Kathy says, "Don't ask." She reports that "the male ego thing certainly took off."
The two women are expert at every character they present, young and old, women and men.
Sometimes their sketches are deeply felt and poignant. One concerns the daily meeting in a Texas bar of a married drunk who keeps proposing and a gallant, lonely woman who fears she'll never get what she needs to make her feel complete because she doesn't know what it is.
Some sketches are holdovers from "The Further Adventures of Kathy and Mo," presented at the off-Broadway Second Stage in 1986. One new one, in which Kathy dreams of being the perfect wife Kenny Rogers sings about, with cuts to Mo, a prostitute talking to herself, doesn't quite work. And the coda, in which many of the sketches' characters return for an instant, is more confusing than fun.
But we laughed through almost all the evening, especially as the elderly Madeleine and Sylvia shift gears adjusting to a meatless, fishless health-food restaurant, even donating to its cause - "Save the fish."