Charlie Shanian and Shari Simpson’s zany Off-Broadway hit Maybe Baby, It’s You! — now playing at the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater in Raleigh, NC as part of the Off-Broadway Series South series — is a whimsical comedy about love, romance, relationships, and the eternal search for the perfect “soul mate.” Can that “Mr. Right” or “Ms. Right” still be found in 2002, or must we settle for “Mr. Almost-Right” or “Almost-Ms. Right”?

Playwrights Shanian and Simpson also star in the current Entertainment Events, Inc. production of Maybe Baby, It’s You! Smartly staged by director Peter Webb and colorfully costumed by Emily Straka, this highly amusing presentation also features minimal (but very nice) scenery by Christopher Goumas, excellent lighting by Greg Cohen and Jean Yves Tessier, and a skillful sound design by Christopher Todd that provocatively employs prerecorded candid man-on-the-street interviews about love and sex to provide entertaining transitions between scenes.

Charlie Shanian and Shari Simpson are a couple of seasoned veterans of the New York City-based Gotham City Improv troupe. In devising this crowd-pleasing two-act program of 11 brief but uniformly inspired comic sketches, they thoroughly explore their thorny subject, from the first faint stirrings of puppy love to rekindled bliss among the Golden Girls and Guys.

In the opening segment, Shanian and Simpson each list the attributes of their perfect mate, and then ruthlessly trim their lists as an audible (biological?) clock ticks faster and faster. This Reduced Expectations Dating Service approach, a la “Mad TV,” ends with the unnamed man and woman settling for “someone who adores me.” In other words: a warm body with a pulse.

Other highlights include a blind date in which the woman turns out to be a 21st century facsimile of Medea from ancient Greek mythology, dressed in period costume as if she stepped out of the pages of an Edith Hamilton book. With petulant personality, shouted imprecations to Zeus, and long, tangled red hair, she is everyman’s nightmare of a blind date: beautiful but undeniably psychotic!

Remember the spastic, thoroughly uncool dancing moves that Elaine busted on “Seinfeld,” try to imagine an utterly uninhibited male version of Elaine — on amphetamines! The break-dancing best man at a wedding, and his perpetual search for a partner who will allow him to (quite literally) kick up his heels, is one of the running jokes of Maybe Baby, It’s You!

Whether they are playing outrageously anti-social junior-high nerds, who cut up while they are cutting up a frog in biology class, or whether they are playing divorced grandparents who unexpectedly meet at their grandson’s soccer game, Shari Simpson and Charlie Shanian are consummate comedians who milk every comic moment for a million laughs.

Whether they are playing “dream lovers” who meet in a bar, a middle-aged married couple who fear that they are not soul mates after all, or film-noir lovers who employ outrageous clichés from hard-boiled detective fiction in their mating ritual, Shanian and Simpson keep a finger firmly on the audience’s comic pulse. Maybe Baby, It’s You! deserves a much bigger audience that than the play attracted on opening night (Tuesday). Go see it. You will be glad you did.

Off-Broadway Series South presents Maybe Baby, It’s You! Thursday-Friday, Oct. 31-Nov. 1, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 2, at 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Nov. 3, at 2 and 7 p.m. in the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater in the BTI Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina. $21-$38. 919/834-4000 or 919/231-4575 (group discounts). [inactive 4/04] or