Last year, playwright/director Ted Lange ("Love Boat") premiered his "Four Queens No Trump," a flawed but often hilarious foray into the decidedly sexual musings of four black women from South Central L.A. Now he has moved the action up the Harbor Freeway to the rarefied, Anglo Saxon environs of upscale Pasadena, but the main topic of conversation among four blonde and beautiful post debutantes is still the whys and wherefores of male genitalia. Despite the earnest efforts of an attractive ensemble, nothing in the self-conscious coital chatter of these ladies rings true.

Last year, playwright/director Ted Lange (“Love Boat”) premiered his “Four Queens No Trump,” a flawed but often hilarious foray into the decidedly sexual musings of four black women from South Central L.A. Now he has moved the action up the Harbor Freeway to the rarefied, Anglo Saxon environs of upscale Pasadena, but the main topic of conversation among four blonde and beautiful post debutantes is still the whys and wherefores of male genitalia. Despite the earnest efforts of an attractive ensemble, nothing in the self-conscious coital chatter of these ladies rings true.

The first act, set in the posh bedroom of society matron Laura (Willow Hale), focuses on a pre-baby shower gathering of Laura’s 8-months-pregnant, thirtysomething daughter Linda (Leslie Windram) and three of Linda’s lifelong friends: wise, sarcastic writer Susan (Stacie Turk), promiscuous actress Phyllis (Aubrie Washburn) and soft-spoken, socially inhibited tennis coach Annie (Carolyn Lawrence). According to Lange, the most driving need these ladies have is the ongoing discussion of their sex lives and the men who provide the action.

In and around all the talk about female/male activity, very little else happens. It is unveiled that Phyllis obtained her latest stage role by servicing the director and once had oral sex with Jack Nicholson. Annie is having an affair with Richard (Adam Clark), a black actor with plain-speaking ways. And Linda, as an inducement to get Annie to talk about the intimate details of her bedding down with Richard, confides that less than a year earlier, she cheated on her husband, Robert (Jeff Scrivner), indulging in a one-night stand with a Jamaican native while in the Caribbean for a charity event. The most significant activity is the first act closer when Linda’s water bursts and she is rushed to the hospital.

The second act returns the ladies to the bedroom five months later, preparing for Linda’s infant daughter’s christening. It seems that the Jamaican’s hearty seed got there before Robert’s, and Linda’s daughter is decidedly not white. Also, after just a few months of hanging out with Richard, the formerly too-shy-to-be-believed Annie is now a foul-mouthed, “get down” Tina Turner clone who is too funky to be believed. In fact, nothing that occurs is credible as Linda is vociferously petitioned by her mother and her husband to give the baby up for adoption (five months after it is born?). Linda finally must make an impassioned speech, declaring that she and her baby will march off into the sunset together, of course with the staunch support of her loyal friends.

None of the dialogue appears to flow comfortably out of anybody’s mouth as the actors seem all too aware of the shock value of their own words. The most rewarding performance comes from Hale’s Laura, whose poised facade barely masks the sense of terror and confusion she feels at the doings of her daughter and friends. Also deserving credit is Clark as the quietly confident Richard, who is constantly amused at the antics of this quartet of “lemon meringue” damsels.

Marco De Leon’s simple but effective set quite adequately communicates the essence of upscale living.

Lemon Meringue Facade

Whitefire Theatre: 99 seats; $15 top

Production

Blackwing Prods. presents a play in two acts written and directed by Ted Lange. Producer is Mary Ann Ley.

With

Cast: Willow Hale (Laura), Leslie Windram (Linda), Stacie Turk (Susan), Carolyn Lawrence (Annie), Aubrie Washburn (Phyllis), Jeff Scrivner (Robert), Adam Clark (Richard).
Set design, Marco De Leon; costume design, Mylette Harris-Nora. Opened Jan. 23, reviewed Jan 24; runs until March 15. Running time: two hours.
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