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Good Vibrations 

Your tools are outlined in white paint on the peg board like a crime scene!" That doesn't sound like a virulent accusation. But as all longtime married couples know, language gradually becomes a code. Actually, of course, language is also a code in courtship, but then it's a code about secret, shared pleasures. Alas, however, the flowers, the boxes of chocolates and the quick smooches in the elevator grow rare. The code slowly, sadly and inevitably shifts from pleasures to conflicts.

Virginia -- the wife in Who's Afraid of Virginia's Wolf Note currently on the boards at Minacapelli's Dinner Playhouse -- speaks of her husband's tools in the plural. However, the code she's using is not too hard to crack. It's her husband's tool in the singular that's really on her mind. Passion has gone out of their marriage. Virginia wants to stoke the fires. Speaking of codes, maybe the "virgin" hiding in her name is, perhaps, not without significance.

The play is a debut for local writer Donald G. Redman. It's an amusing comedy on the trials and tribulations of monogamy. If gay couples go to see this show, they might vote for the antigay marriage amendment. Just kidding -- the play isn't against matrimony, it's pro-laughter.

But back to David's tools. David is Virginia's husband. As the play begins, they are waiting for another couple to arrive for their weekly bridge game. In the interim, they get into a brouhaha about the chill that's settled over their sex life. As they banter and quibble, Virginia arranges some flowers in a vase. This seems like an unimportant bit of stage business. It's not. Playwright Redman may be a beginner, but he's in control of his story. The flowers, as it turns out, pack a symbolic punch.

The other couple, Arthur and Susan, arrives. Thanks to the title of the play, we are prepared for some sort of evocation of Edward Albee's famous drama. We are also prepared -- from the lighthearted, cryptic twist on Albee -- for a four-way push and pull that will not be cutthroat this time out.

However, there are marital tensions in the Arthur/Susan household as well. For one thing, Arthur is a composer and teaches music at a college, where, as Susan reminds all (as she turns a deep shade of green), there are so many adoring, nubile coeds. A "wolf note," by the way, is a musical term to describe a weird, disruptive vibration in string instruments -- not unlike the weird, disruptive vibrations that can be set off in marriages.

So the evening rolls along. The men offer quixotic anatomical analyses, like whether so-and-so's breasts are "perky" or "pouty." The women threaten to retaliate by making similarly mortifying assessments of their partners' erogenous zones. Trumps are pretty much forgotten amid the battle of the sexes. Finally, someone suggests smoking pot. Bridge gives way to a game of strip poker. As luck would have it, Marty -- Virginia and David's twenty-something son -- bursts unexpectedly into this parental Sodom and Gomorrah. Horrors!

But wait! Things get even worse. Those flowers, we learn, were actually sent by Felix Ochoa. He was a professor of Latin American literature -- a Latin lecher, according to David. Ochoa's had a longtime flirtation with Virginia, who was his student. She still reels at the thought of his lecture on Neruda's love poems. Well, the professor (and/or lecher) is dying of cancer. Virginia and David must go to visit him in the hospital. After some confusion, nonsense and aphasia, they get solid advice for the lovelorn.

Director Grace Marshall has assembled an excellent cast and keeps things moving at a pleasant pace. Everybody seems to be who they are -- which in my book is high praise. Also, they're funny, without seeming to try to be funny. Rita Stockstill-O'Sullivan gives us a charming, attractive Virginia. As David, Fred Martinez is fractious, yet somehow winning -- a husband you might curse, scream at, yet stay with. David Jacobs and Christine Barnhill-Tramel as Arthur and Susan balance the foursome nicely. You get a comfortable Lucy-Desi-Fred-and-Ethel sort of believability that grounds the silliness. Bob Gault as the expiring Ochoa and Rya Hazelbaker as son Marty aptly fill their supporting roles.

On the night I saw this entertaining, original comedy, Minacapelli's was packed. So, you want to call and make reservations early. The drive to Slidell is neither long nor arduous, but you don't want to get there and find out they can't squeeze you in.

click to enlarge Susan (Christine Barnhill-Tramel), Arthur (David Jacobs), - David (Fred Martinez) and Virginia (Rita Stockstill- - O'Sullivan) mix it up in  Who's Afraid of Virginia's Wolf - Note .
  • Susan (Christine Barnhill-Tramel), Arthur (David Jacobs), David (Fred Martinez) and Virginia (Rita Stockstill- O'Sullivan) mix it up in Who's Afraid of Virginia's Wolf Note .
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