Life and love in The City

Imagine a cross between TV’s “Friends” and Armistead Maupin’s “Tales of the City,” and you have an idea of “Insignificant Others,” composer/lyricist L. Jay Kuo’s sweet-and-silly (and poignant) musical valentine to young homo- and heterosexual love in San Francisco.

Kuo’s twentysomething “others” are five starry-eyed Midwesterners — two gay childhood pals and their three straight women friends — who relocate here seeking adventure and romance. But one of the gay men, Luke, is quietly, hopelessly in love with the other — who in turn is infatuated with a hard-drinking co-worker who may or may not be gay. Two of the women end up unwittingly having an affair with the same “perfect guy.” The third, the feisty Margaret, dates a series of less-than-ideal boyfriends. In addition, a chorus of three men and one woman enhance the action in various ways.

In a show that’s light on book and heavy on song, Kuo mixes comedy, sentimentality and genuine heartbreak. His initially hopeful characters go through various personal encounters in their freaky adopted city — scenes are set in places such as Rainbow Grocery and Café Du Nord — and become temporarily quasi-estranged from one another before, predictably, rediscovering and celebrating the bonds of enduring friendship.

Kuo’s humor, played out too broadly under George Quick’s heavy-handed direction, is hit-or-miss: ongoing satirical commentary about Starbucks taking over the world, for example, and some jabs at right-wing, homophobic Christians, just aren’t that freshly imagined or funny. And after a while the songs, with their wistful air, start to sound alike as the bittersweet musical drags on a little too long. Nor does it help that the cast is uneven in both musical and acting skills.

Exceptions are Margaret’s truly witty songs of lament, as belted out by a brassy Sarah Kathleen Farrell — one of her lovers turns out to be a female-to-male transsexual, another is extremely well-endowed, a third is as hairy as an ape. And slender, vulnerable-looking Andrew Sa is touching as Luke, singing passionately of his unrequited secret love for his best friend.

At these times, and in a few — but too few — other scenes, the struggles of these kids feel authentic and universal.

Insignificant Others **½

Where: Zeum, 221 Fourth St., San Francisco

When: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, closes Sept. 23

Tickets: $35 to $39

Contact: (866) 811-4111 or www.isomusical.com

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