Considering the boisterous public personalities of actress-comics Kathy Najimy and Mo Gaffney, it would be natural to assume their play "Parallel Lives" would be a knee-slapping, raucous hoot and a half.
And by all means, there are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments in the show, currently onstage in a Jester Theater Company production. But what's surprising is how much of this thoughtful show shuffles along on good will and broad smiles, punctuated by guffaws.
Najimy and Gaffney, it would seem, want their audience to think about relationships, women's role in society and gender issues, through the laughter.
And don't panic, gentlemen: There's no feminist screed here. In fact the only ranting is a deliciously funny send-up of "I Am Woman" performance-art.
The show resembles "Saturday Night Live" or other sketch comedy shows of that type: eccentric characters in comic situations, played by a small cast. In Jester's case, director Jay Hopkins cast four actresses in place of the show's usual two.
This decision proves to have positives and negatives — the four expressive actresses are delightful and each brings a different energy. But there's also a lingering question if some scenes would be even funnier if the same two actresses played all the roles.
How much fun would it be to see Maria Ragen and Karen White instantly morph from two middle-aged ladies out of their depth in a university's women's-studies program to fervent young lesbian performance artists?
But, on the other hand, that would have deprived the audience of fine comic work from Michele Feren and Jodi Chase.
Some theme-park humor plays well to an Orlando crowd. In one sketch a woman's grandmother has died riding Space Mountain. "At least she went with a FastPass," she cracks.
In another funny skit, the mothers of Walt Disney cartoons attend group therapy to grouse about why they are all killed off or missing from the animated films. Let me tell you, Bambi's mother (a fiercely surly Feren) has issues: "My son was raised by a rabbit," she spits.
Other sketches dig deeper: A couple face a sleepless night as their conversation reveals how what's important to men and women differs. At a run-down bar, a single mom (a strung-out White) and a drunken good ol' boy (Feren again) demonstrate two kinds of lonely.
But there are delightful surprises — especially in an extended sketch about religion in which Chase and Ragen touch on hot-button issues in thoughtful, unexpected ways.
If there's such a genre as thoughtful comedy, this is it.
• What: Jester Theater Company production of the Kathy Najimy/Mo Gaffney comedy
• Length: 2:20, including intermission
• Where: Lowndes Shakespeare Center, 812 E. Rollins St., Orlando
• When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays and Monday, Sept. 10; 2 p.m. Sundays; through Sept. 16
• Tickets: $18; $15 on Monday
• Call: 407-447-1700