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Comic chameleons 

One of the most eye-opening, hilarious shows you're likely to see for some time is playing at Shipping Dock Theatre through the end of this month (and ought to be extended past then).

            In The Kathy and Mo Show: Parallel Lives, Mo Gaffney and Kathy Najimy created a series of connected sketches exploring feminist thinking about everything from sexual identity to pretensions about food, art, and education. The writers are best known as comic actresses, so their takes on male and female roles in life are understandably pointed and funny.

            This long-popular entertainment, which Najimy and Gaffney originally played themselves, requires two women to perform all the roles, male and female. The good news is that Kate McLean and Kerry Young have honed and polished their work in The Kathy and Mo Show since they played it here several years ago, and they're now good enough in it to take it on tour.

            Not really spoiling that achievement, the bad news is that director Barbara Biddy has added a pointless, non-speaking male role, which the program labels "Angel-In-Training." Since the sketches that begin each act present the two women as angels commenting on the creation of the sexes, this "intern" angel also wears little wings. Looking lost and bewildered, he flounces about the stage to change set pieces, archly stares out at the audience, and literally slows down the comedy. Stuck with this role, Don Anderson reminds me of the late comic Joe Besser; I don't think that the tedious interruptions are his fault.

            Kate McLean is wickedly funny as a gruff-voiced, coarse, crotch-grabbing young man named Jeff, and Kerry Young's drunken Hank, an impotently flirtatious man at a bar, is a memorable caricature. Both actresses butch it up to play rough, macho males, showing how different the attitudes would be if men had to menstruate.

            But Young is even more satirically adept in a pantomime demonstration of how a woman cleans and fixes herself up to face the world. And she gets touching variety in a conventional middle-aged woman's speech about discovering that her nephew is gay. McLean moves with equal versatility from an air-headed young girl to a tired, tolerantly cynical woman at a bar. Don't miss these two in this rewarding 'tour de farce.'

Mo Gaffney & Kathy Najimy's The Kathy and Mo Show: Parallel Lives, directed by Barbara Biddy, plays Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through August 31 atShipping Dock Theatre, 151 St. Paul Street. Tickets are $16-$18; for more information, call 232-2250.

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