FOUR QUEENS–NO TRUMP, Onyx Theatre Ensemble, at the Edgewater Theatre Center. Playwright Ted Lange displays an irritating predilection for blandness, predictability, and superficiality in this play. And no wonder, given that he’s best known for his role as Isaac the bartender on The Love Boat. In Four Queens–No Trump issues are dropped as quickly as they’re posed, characters skirt sticky situations with witty repartee, and the play is resolved in the most ham-handed manner.

Which isn’t to say that Lange’s only talent is sticking little umbrellas in tropical drinks: here he does manage to come up with four fairly lively and eccentric characters. Deola, the most levelheaded of the bunch, divides her time between managing a dog-grooming salon and acting as a psychic. Her three closest friends–unabashedly foulmouthed Maude, hyper-materialistic Jocenia, and mild-mannered Edna–gather each week at Deola’s house for an evening of cards and candid conversation. Jackie Arthur as Edna and Cynthia Jackson as Deola help to plead Lange’s case with a pair of strong performances.

The two main plotlines are the secret past Edna shares with her new love interest, Jefferson, and the problems created by Jocenia’s insatiable sexual appetite. Both complications are at best forced. Add sluggish pacing, lackluster direction, and an absurd running time of two and a half hours, and Four Queens–No Trump topples like a house of cards. –Nick Green