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Washington Squares: folk at the Rat; Picasso at Fogg; songs of city life; City life in song

Like Stephen Sondheim, whose style his resembles, composer-lyricist Andy Gaus has both an affectionate and irritated relationship with the city, in this case, Boston.

In Mr. Gaus's new musical revue, ''I Choose to Live Here in the City,'' his vision is often stereotypically bleak: Everyone is lonely, relationships don't work out, and people's jobs drive them crazy.

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But his treatment of these dark themes is often light: One of the women sings a sweet Salvation Army-type song about her ''guard and guide,'' which turns out to be a ''tiny little gun.'' And he has some delightful things to say about a Volkswagen that sings ''when it thinks it's alone''; an icebox ''like a cyclops snoring in the night''; and crying comic books.

The review runs the gamut of musical styles: gospel, doo-wop, Latin, and more. Some of it is charming, some of it is corny, some of it clunks: An erotic song about mammals (''I don't care two swats for a fly''), while playful, was tasteless. And several of the ballads about lost love were hard to follow, as if Gaus were so wrapped up in his own experience that he couldn't convey it coherently.

The singing ranges from adequate to top-notch. The two women have better command over their material and play with it more. Madeleine Homan has a flexible, rich voice and elegant demeanor; Belle-Linda Halpern sizzles with energy and looniness. The two men, David Baird and Joel Evans, sing competently but are too effeminate to be believable in the few love songs.

''I Choose to Live Here in the City,'' directed by Kevin Fennessy, with musical direction by Catherine Stornetta, is an energetic evening of songs from a promising new composer. Who can fault a revue that ends with a song about the Jamaica Plain trolley: ''Slow is the only way the Arborway goes''? Playing at the Lyric Stage through Aug. 5.

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