‘Parallel Lives’ makes angular connections
Hot buttons get pressed in comedy show
In a way, “Parallel Lives” is a study of comedic geometry.
Stay with me on this. The humor in the collection of10 skits being staged by Thinking Cap Theatre in Fort Lauderdale comes at you from oblique angles. In its finest moments, it is delightfully askew. And the two-character show frequently centers itself on perpendicular personas played by Elena Maria Garcia and Casey Dressler.
Written by Kathy Najimy (“Hocus Pocus,” “Sister Act”) and Mo Gaffney (“House of Lies,” “Absolutely Fabulous”), “Parallel Lives” was an off-Broadway hit in the 1980s and ran in heavy rotation on HBO and Comedy Central in the 1990s.
Gender roles form the through line of the show, which opens with two angels discussing the nuts and bolts of creating mankind: Will white people feel a bit bland compared to the more colorful races? Can the miracle of childbirth for women be balanced out by giving men oversize egos?
If you go
“Parallel Lives” is running through July 3 at the Vanguard, 1501 S. Andrews Ave., in Fort Lauderdale.
Showtimes are 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Saturdays and 5 p.m. Sundays.
Tickets cost $35. To order, call 754-206-4568 or go to VanguardArts.org.
From there begins a swiftly paced (90 minutes with a 10-minute intermission) tour of topics — religion, dating, homophobia, feminism, fashion, oppression — enveloped by “Saturday Night Live”-like sketches. In one of the more successful bits, two seniors who, having signed up for a “womyn’s studies” continuing-education course, find themselves way out of their comfort zones in a neohippie, vegan restaurant to see a performance-art piece titled “Sister Woman Sister.” In another, two teens discuss their boyfriends after watching “West Side Story” on TV and conclude, in a lightning-strike epiphany, that “love hurts.”
Each actor gets a bravura turn alone: Dressler as an aunt relating how her favorite nephew came out to her, and Garcia in a mime act of a woman going through the primping contortions of getting groomed and dressed for the day.
It’s all very amusing, but I imagine it will be downright hilarious once Dressler and Garcia burn off all the static electricity that buzzes around their performances and plug into the sanguine nature that powers “Parallel Lives.”
They tend to hit it harder than they need to or should. This particular kind of comedy doesn’t really need punching up. They are both charismatic and diverting talents with vast experience in off-kilter work with unexpected plot points. I imagine the recalculation to a more relaxed show is imminent.
“Parallel Lives” is part of the Vanguard’s 2016 Comedy Lineup.
The Vanguard Sanctuary for the Arts is a performingarts space that opened last year in a former church that was constructed in 1939.
Elena Maria Garcia and Casey Dressler star in “Parallel Lives,” running through July 3 at the Vanguard in Fort Lauderdale.