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The show that just opened at St. Louis Shakespeare, “Wild Oats,” has a literary pedigree that sounds imposing: It’s based John O’Keeffe’s 1791 Restoration comedy of the same name.

Do not let that daunt you. This breezy little confection from the late American writer James McLure moves the story to the Old West, stuffs it with sight gags and more Shakespeare jokes than you can count, and makes a fun way to end the summer for the whole family.

That’s especially true if, come fall, some members of the family will be studying English lit.

Director Shaun Sheley gallops through the silly — but insanely complicated! — story about an heiress, Kate Thunder (Nicole Angeli), and an itinerant actor, Jack Rover (Erik Kuhn). (One of McLure’s nice touches: the way he updates the joke names of actual Restoration comedies and gives them a Western flair.)

Feisty Kate went East to a finishing school where they couldn’t finish her, and handsome Jack is assumed to be somebody else. They fall in love at first sight but need a longer look to work things out.

Angeli and Kuhn make sparks fly, with plenty of support from a big cast that features especially strong performances from Ashley Bauman, John Foughty, Michael Pierce, Chuck Winning and, in assorted roles including an Irish/Indian scout, John Wolbers.

In an early scene, the scout has the thankless task of trying to summarize the situation our characters face — a speech he concludes by asking if anyone managed to follow him. Truth is, Wolbers sounds so clear you really can.

But it hardly matters. “Wild Oats” rolls from bit to bit and from scene to scene on sheer laughter, plus a little song. Don’t hesitate to join in.


‘Wild Oats’

When • 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday

Where • Ivory Theatre, 7620 Michigan Avenue

How much • $15-$20

More info • 314-361-5664; stlshakespeare.org

Judith Newmark is the theater critic for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.