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Love Child 

"There are 20 or 22 characters," Mark Routhier told me about Love Child. How can a director not know how many characters are in a show? In this rollicking comedy, confusion is key.

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  Bob Edes Jr. and Brian Peterson are in top form as they flash from one role to another and often one gender to another, all without costume changes. The absolutely minimal set holds six chairs, and nearly all props are mimed, some with the help of Mike Harkins' sound effects. The mimicry of life is droll and inventive, but there is so much transformation that you sometimes get lost in the flurry. Determining what happened to whom, however, is part of the humor, and the laughs are nonstop.

  As a child, Joel (Peterson) made sock puppets to perform shows based on ancient Greek myth. We first see him in Los Angeles picking up his father in a car, but maybe it is not his real father. Family relationships can be as baffling in Love Child as they are in Greek myth. An element of camp makes it more confusing.

  Joel is being considered for a part in a TV series, and he also has created a ragtag theater company on the East Coast called WordUp. He returns home to direct its next production, Euripides' Ion.

  The cast of WordUp includes a feisty Latina and a professional athlete. Sometimes, two characters in a scene are played by the same actor, and Edes and Peterson pull off this sort of zaniness with ease. At one point, the Latina is presented as a TV psychic named Oracle, who tries to work her magic on the athlete. He has gulped a fistful of sedatives and responds only with snoring. Edes is hilarious as he flashes back and forth from the sleeping athlete to the desperate woman.

  Routhier's direction is excellent, and it's hard to imagine a better cast. This is a comic treat of the first order. — Dalt Wonk

Thru. Nov. 21

Love Child

8 p.m. Thu.-Sat.; 6 p.m. Sun.

Le Chat Noir, 715 St. Charles Ave., 581-5812; www.southernrep.com

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