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FIVE COURSE LOVEMinetta Lane Theatre, 18 Minetta Lane. (212) 307-4100.

THE ingredients are all there in "Five Course Love," the new comic musical at the Minetta Lane Theatre, and if they're not thrown together with perfection, they nonetheless provide a pretty tasty experience.

Written by Gregg Coffin, the show consists of a series of comic vignettes revolving around the theme of love, set in five restaurants and featuring but three performers: Heather Ayers and John Bolton as the various star-crossed lovers, and Jeff Gurner as their waiter, narrating and sometimes manipulating the events.

Thus, we have episodes set in a Texas barbecue restaurant, an Italian trattoria, a German beer hall (dubbed "Der Schlupfinkel Speiseplatz"), a Mexican cantina and a classic American diner. The clever musical score shifts genres as needed, from Italian operatic to country western and so on.

While the concept eventually wears thin and features ethnic stereotypes that would have seem dated decades ago, Coffin's music and lyrics are consistently fun and engaging, and the talented performers throw so much comic flair and gusto into their caricatures that they're utterly irresistible.

Director Emma Griffin stages the proceedings with exactly the right fast-paced pizazz, and G.W. Mercier's sets and costumes could be transplanted to tacky theme restaurants throughout the land.

Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.

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