Salisbury Press

Wednesday, April 8, 2020


Wednesday, April 3, 2013 by PAUL WILLISTEIN in Focus

Acting duo unparalleled in APT's 'Lives'

What a sketch.

"Parallel Lives" is a tour de farce of sketch comedy by two female actors who are, when you get right down to it, incredible to behold as they carouse through some 14 sketch-comedy scenes and an estimated 30 characters in an amusing two-hour show (not including a 15-minute intermission) produced by Allentown Public Theatre (APT) through April 7 at the Salemme Foundation gallery, Allentown.

Joshua Neth directs Samantha Beedle as Mo and Jennifer Starr Foley as Kathy in "Parallel Lives," written by Mo Gaffney and Kathy Najimy, who first performed it in 1986 at Second Stage, New York City.

This is politically-correct sketch comedy of the kind typical of, say, "Saturday Night Live" in that most of the humor is directed at what seems to be the sketch revue's apparent target audience of rather well-off Caucasians.

"Parallel Lives" deals with a lot of women's issues and, at times, one might expect a post-show "rap session."

The skits technically constitute a show by being bookended by expendable scenes about two female angels apparently reinterpreting the Big Guy's Old World Order in new and innovative ways, or at least offering alternative takes on Creationism.

While the number of skits permits mention of only a few for the purposes of this review (a title listing of skits in the playbill would be helpful), each is memorable in its own way, but mainly for the impressive actor chops Beedle and Starr Foley bring to the stage.

Beedle is a rubbery-faced comic who can go from one skit as a rather doofus guy to another as a kvetching femme. Her wordless scene of a woman getting ready for work to classic Beethoven is a classic.

Starr Foley has the ability to relax her whole body into a character with a casualness that borders on understatement. It's very effective.

Both can disappear into a role. They are fantastic with character voices, such as those of New "Joisey" or Brooklyn housewives, or teen girls, or rednecks. They are a great duo. Each also has solo spotlight skits.

In content and humor, the standout skit is "Disney Moms' Support Group," a trenchant deconstruction of the Disney version of tragic female daughters, from the never-seen viewpoint of the characters' mothers. Beedle and Starr Foley switch characters and deliver the rapid-fire dialogue seamlessly.

Also rising above the rest of the skits is a send-up of a classical Shakespearean theater troupe.

At times, the dialogue and monologue is sharply observational and goofily humorous: "Everybody marches to their own drum cycle."

Costume Design by Marcie Schlener is extremely clever, helping to delineate and make distinctive the two actors' multiple characters.

The Good 'n' Plenty color set is versatile, with risers doubling as tables, benches and even a bed.

"Parallel Lives" is funny sketch comedy, with thought-provoking themes and unparalleled performances by two dynamic female actors.