IL CAMPIELLO, A VENETIAN COMEDY, by Carlo Goudoni; adapted by Richard Nelson; literal translation by Erica Gastell; directed by Livlu Clulei; sets by Radu Boruzescu; costumes by Miruna Boruzescu; lighting by Dennis Tarichy; musical direction by Bruce Adolphe; choreography by Anna Sokolow; with Lori Putnam, Michele-Denise Woods, Robert Lovitz, Pamela Nyberg and Richard Howard.

At the Terrace Theater through March 21.

"Il Campiello, a Venetian Comedy, is an enjoyable cruise into exotic territory -- namely, the 18th-century Italian theater of Carlo Goldoni, who gave the commedia dell'arte tradition a gingerly shove in the direction of naturalism.

"Il Campiello" is a rare item even among Goldoni's rarely seen works, but the Acting Company and director Liviu Ciulei -- neither known for doing the obvious -- have put together a spunky and affectionate production that justifies the unexpected choice of a play. For drama students (both the formal and informal kind), this week's run at the Terrace Theater offers a chance to inspect a missing link in theatrical history. For those with a less academic turn of mind, "Il Campiello" offers an easygoing evening of ethnic comedy -- not a major laugh riot, maybe, but a significant laugh disturbance at least.

The "campiello" of the title is a piazza surrounded by four houses, each occupied by a marriageable young person and his or her parent or guardian. These are working people who spend their days gaming, gossiping, bickering and giving the raspberry (otherwise known as the "campiello bow") to anyone who thinks he's better than they are. And the coarse Latin flavor of their scraps is nicely captured by Richard Nelson's new adaptation, in suitably vulgar modern English.

You have seen those types before, but you probably won't mind seeing them again. Goldoni's women are especially lively, and especially so in this production. There is Donna Pasqua, who can't quite admit to being either deaf or toothless, and there is her neighbor and rival, Donna Katherina, with her own large store of vanity. These two, played with gusto by Lynn Chausow and Michele-Denise Woods, have daughters to marry off, no money for a dowry, and secret dreams of getting remarried themselves.

Johann Carlo and Lori Putnam etch out equally pleasing performances, with less material to work from, as Gnese and Lucietta, the two daughters. And Brian Reddy and Robert Lovitz help keep things near a constant boil as the two temperamental suitors, Zorzetto and Anzoletto.

All of this gentle frivolity has been installed on a handsome set designed by Radu Boruzescu -- a vision of Venice that is even more impressive when you consider the stop-and-go schedule of the Acting Company (a troupe of young American actors founded by John Houseman) and all the different sizes and shapes of the auditoriums it calls home.