Northeast Joco

A stand-in for Prairie Village?

It’s amazing how much difference a couple of words can make.

On Garrison Keillor’s bucolic public radio show “A Prairie Home Companion,” it’s usually been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men good-looking and all the children above average.

But what of the “Prairie Village Christmas Companion”? Are the children there all above average, too?

You can find out this weekend when a Kansas City stage performance makes its premiere.

The comedy show takes place in what might be Prairie Village but is really a stand-in for suburbia, a place writer and producer Jeanne Murphy said was a gold mine of material.

“One thing was just seeing yard guys in Prairie Village, and realizing there were all these covenants and different specific, like, lawn heights and rules for each development,” Murphy said. “It must be very confusing for these yard guys.”

Which is where the idea sprouted for a fictional company called Coventry Lawn — devoted to understanding the minutiae of these agreements — and its advertising.

Murphy said the idea came out of six months of planning and a successful debut of a similar production, “Prairie Village Home Companion,” at the 2012 Fringe Festival arts show.

Murphy’s co-writer is Pam Gregory, a musician with the Christmas show. The two conceived the Fringe Festival show after a conversation while driving. It would be a thumbing of the nose to food fads, a speculation on what would happen to a pub crawl devoted to combating alcoholism.

The Fringe Festival show was a hit, she said.

A five-member cast will strike again this weekend. It’s likely that, as of the printing of this article, Murphy is still writing.

Readings of Mark Twain and other literary favorites will be mixed in, just as in past holiday shows from the Westport Center for the Arts.

What sets this work apart, Murphy says, is a tighter structure and edgier material.

“We decided maybe there’s one too many ‘Christmas Carol’s in town.”

Instead, actor and improv comedian David Martin’s skit will ask what would happen if Keillor’s Guy Noir were investigating the death of Santa Claus.

Like the Fringe Festival debut, the satire in the Christmas show will feature close-to-home examples.

Murphy remembers writing a skit that made light of the fictional village’s 0.8 percent African American population, a measure that she learned was pretty consistent with the actual Prairie Village.

“I remember as we were writing that skit and an actual (Prairie Village) resident said, ‘Oh, you mean the guy with the boxer? Yeah, we call him Dave.’”

The details

“Prairie Village Christmas Companion” will be presented at the Buffalo Room, 817 Westport Road. Performance times are 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. A matinee show will be held at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $10; for students and seniors, $8.

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