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Theater--Mini Review

May 08, 1997

"Four Queens--No Trump."--The dictionary has one definition of fool, but writer-director Ted Lange seems to have another, based on the evidence in his three-act comedy, "Four Queens--No Trump," at the Whitefire Theatre.

Lange's fool is any man who hasn't a clue what's on a woman's mind--especially when those minds get together for gals' night out. He presents us with a quartet of smart, upscale women who bond weekly over a kick-ass game of bid whist--a card game similar to bridge. But as with all games, this one is only a pretext for other matters, like the issues black women face, how important sex is for these four, and how they don't mince words about it.

It's funny while watching this to think of Lange being a regular on "The Love Boat," and how much of the show was based on innuendo and tip-toeing around sex. "Four Queens," which Lange previously staged at Beverly Hills' Theatre 40, feels like a letting loose after a lot of TV Puritanism.

Still, "Four Queens" doesn't totally escape TV; some of the line-laugh-line-laugh rhythm here is pure sitcom, and the acting sometimes slips into the same trap. But here you will find real characters going on a journey.

Lange delivers a humanistic message that's all sweet fantasy. But the play earns its stripes as ribald entertainment, potently supported by an ideal cast of actresses, whose distinct comic styles never clash.

* "Four Queens--No Trump" at the Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. 8 p.m. Fri.-Sat.; 3 p.m. Sun. Ends May 25. Tickets are $20. (213) 660-8587.

--ROBERT KOEHLER

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