"Keegan and Lloyd," a hilarious and poignant odyssey about a male couple, is ample evidence that gay theater is a passe and restrictive label whose burial is overdue (the production's self-trumpeting Fringe sponsor, "Purple Stages: A Celebration of Gay and Lesbian Culture," notwithstanding).

The show (at the Fifth Estate Theater) is brashly named after its two creator-performers, the spiky Davidson Lloyd and the open-faced Tom Keegan. They have fashioned art from their long-term personal and professional relationship. They are talented and spunky enough to get away with it.

In a quicksilver manner, they also cartwheel within the context of gay history in this country. The second half of the show, called "Passing on the Right and Other Accidents of Life," ripely dramatizes the pair's motor trip from New York to California. The baggage, as trips will do, brings out the worst and the best in the relationship.

Keegan likes to view the scenery, turn in early and take leisurely lunches. Lloyd prefers maniacal non-stop driving. As in any romance, moods collide. "Would you like to kiss?" "No, I wasn't thinking of that." At one motel, a nosy hayseed clerk asks Keegan: "Are you one?" Later, even Walt Whitman gets into the act.

There's a sensual ballet of lovemaking notable for its absence of self-consciousness. Also bewitching is a circuslike post-modern vaudeville curtain-raiser, "Crawling Off-Broadway." Under the tight rein of director Dan McKereghan, these guys dance, do mime, juggle, even touch the immensity of things. The packed house was solidly male. What a waste. Labels do fragment audiences.

This is not a Purple Stage. This is not gay theater. It's Everyman. It's Theater.

Performances run at 1707 N. Kenmore Ave., Fridays through Mondays, 8 p.m., until Sept. 28. Tickets: $10; (213) 666-0434.

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