Theater archives

Looney Gestation


The two new sketches in Afterbirth: Kathy and Mo’s Greatest Hits stand out from the ’80s feminist nostalgia that the rest of the show radiates. It’s more fun laughing at things that are rather than things that were.

In the most inspired new look at fairy tales since Bruno Bettelheim, the duo portrays, with a panoply of mannerisms and accents, attendees at the Disney Moms’ Support Group—for characters who are dead or die soon after the stories start, among them, Dolores Deer, Bambi’s mom, and Betty White, mother of Snow.

In the other new skit, Najimy and Gaffney become alternating midlife monologuists. Kathy, with a throaty snort, plays a rich Beverly Hills divorcée, dumped for a more “fuckable” woman. Brittle and ironic, she chides her girlfriend: “Oh, you haven’t had a carb since the Nixon administration!” Mo, a feisty, sensible housewife, justifies the face-lift she scorned decades ago. Mocking herself, she says, “That’s because I thought I’d always look about 30.”

The team’s older material divides into satiric riffs (on eternal themes like menstruation and male egos) and wickedly drawn character studies. The former fare less well, especially when parodying such retro trends as lesbian poets shouting paeans to their labia.

In the hands—and, oh, the faces!—of this comic pair, the old character skits still enthrall. Annette and Gina, those Brooklyn Italian girls hypothesizing about the bloodshed they’d suffer for love, are eternal, even if their accents and hairstyles have nearly disappeared. So too are drunk blowhard Hank and faded cutie Karen Sue in their halfhearted nightly bar flirtation. Although director Mark Brokaw keeps the show bouncing forward, this sketch and others like it feel long—a failing easily forgiven by fans who’ve waited 15 years to see Kathy and Mo again strike sparks off one another.