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New York Theater

Fools and Lovers

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Gregory Sherman and Gregory Wolfe have conceived a surprisingly beguiling musical by appropriating lines from a variety of Shakespeare's plays, setting many to music, and telling a story of romance that sours, blossoms, and ultimately triumphs at a young couple's wedding.

The couple is Romeo and Juliet, although these characters, sporting costume designer Oana Boetz-Ban's handsome contemporary evening clothes, are obviously not the doomed lovers, even if they share some of their namesakes' traits. Here the overly exuberant Romeo (Rick Cekovsky) can't wait to tie the knot, but a less na誰ve but equally emotional Juliet (Emily Shoolin) has doubts and uses Hamlet's "To be or not to be" soliloquy to express her reservations.

Elsewhere the creators allow Shakespeare's work to play out almost as written. For example, Helena (Rhonda S. Musak), the bespectacled and awkward maid of honor, takes a fancy to Romeo's best man, Demetrius (David DelGrosso), an arrogant confirmed bachelor. When a brash New Joizy-sounding guest, Hermia (Yvonne Roen), arrives, Demetrius falls for her, setting the stage for the catfight from A Midsummer Night's Dream.

But love is not restricted to the young or to members of the wedding party. Romeo's charming mother (Lynn Lobban) and Juliet's dapper father (David Pixley) begin a tentative dalliance, and even the goofy photographer (James Wolfe) and the jaded caterer (Kate Greer) take part in the coupling and uncoupling that unfolds on set designer Kanae Heike's gorgeous, lattice and flower-filled stone patio.

While theatregoers may start the evening playing "Place That Quote," Wolfe's effervescent staging and Andrew Sherman's winsome melodies quickly dispel such intellectual pursuits, leaving us to bask in the warm glow of this musical valentine.

Presented by Moonwork at the Connelly Theatre, 220 E. Fourth St., NYC. Sept. 28-Oct. 15. Thu.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m. (212) 868-4444 or www.smarttix.com.

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