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I LOVE NEW YORK—WHAT'S YOUR EXCUSE?

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Presented by The Third Annual Midtown International Theatre Festival at Raw Space, 529 W. 42 St., NYC, July 9- Aug. 4.

The satiric bite proves to be somewhat toothless in "I Love New York—What's Your Excuse?," six playlets aiming to puncture the pretensions and foibles of New Yorkers, both native and nouveau.

Writer David Kosh provides funny lines and a recognizable sense of underlying hysteria for many of his characters. But he tends to push his conceits beyond probability into a realm of clunky ridiculousness.

The lengthiest piece, for example, has a couple dining out in anticipated splendor in New York's hottest restaurant. The guy's smug insider air, his gaga date, and the imperious waiter are amusing. But irony dissipates when chef Alain's masterpiece turns out to be a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, the guy asks to have it sent back, and chef Alain manhandles him. Then, we learn in a very long monologue that peanut butter and jelly was involved in a traumatic incident from the guy's nerdy youth, an experience that sent him to New York for a new identity. The quest to redo identity is certainly another worthy target for satirists of New Yorkers, but the laughs falter when the guy's date confesses she's not a well-bred Connecticut lady, but a hooker from San Diego.

In another skit, a husband tells his pregnant wife about his perilous adventure in shopping for her Sunday morning cravings at Zabar's, the legendary Upper West Side gourmet deli. Kosh pushes things to unfunny extremes with a riot started by a customer who screams she has bubonic plague.

The cast, under Ann Bowen's direction, carries on gamely, with some impressive turns. Barry Pomerantz, as a fatigued rush-hour bus rider, explodes with delicious fury at a loquacious fellow passenger. And Drake Andrew brings appealing humanity to a rambling monologue telling how he fell in love with a woman whom he learns has been a transsexual almost from birth due to faulty circumcision.

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