With three likable characters and its share of funny lines about sex and politics, "An Almost Perfect Person" seems well on the way as comedy.

But something doesn't happen along the way. It ends up as an almostmade-it comedy. Those nice people and the witty observations are wasted because playwright Judith Ross doesn't give us enough substance to decide much about the characters except that they are amusing and agreeable.

"An Almost Perfect Person" is in the midst of a nine-week run until Feb. 25 at the Hayloft Dinner Theater in Manassas. Hayloft is to be commended for a show of courage in trying a consciousness-raising comedy. With its wry comments on sex and politics, "An Almost Perfect Person" is heartier fare than the usual broadhumored comedies that make the rounds of the dinner-theater circuit.

The Ross play had a brief run on the Broadway stage last season with Colleen Dewhurst in the role of Irene Porter, a (woman) politician who loses a congressional election in a Manhattan district. Along with a woman playwright, the Broadway production also had a woman director, actress Zoe Caldwell in her first directing assignment.

"Who knows what goes on under that hat," one of the play's characters observes in a reference to Bella Abzug.

Well, Irene Porter doesn't wear hats and she isn't Bella Abzug. But she is a woman in politics with a commitment to do what she can and the belief that she can do some good. A widow after 14 years of marriage and two children, she runs for Congress and loses. She has two close political advisers -- a me-dia-wiz campaign manager and a finance officer who was her childhood boyfriend.

In the post-election hangover, she goes to bed with both of them for personal, not political, reasons. They are both interesting, attractive men.

However liberated they may be about women in politics, both male campaign aides slip into chauvinistic cliches when trying to comfort Irene ("Cry -- it's a normal female reaction"). When the two check notes and find their candidate has slept with both within a day, they accuse Irene of being a dangerous nymphomaniac. If one of them had two women within 24 hours, she asks angrily, what would be the other's reaction?

"Congratulations," the campaign manager admits sheepishly.

"An Almost Perfect Person" makes its points with wry humor rather than pro-feminist pronouncements. Its main problem is that we can't decide what we want for Irene in either politics or sex.

Under Marshall Oglesby's direction, the Hayloft production offers some engaging performances from Mary Carter, Richard Bowden and Robert McDonald. Carter is a fine Irene, with her strong-featured face and air of authority. Bowden brings the right touch of Irish charm to the role of the campaign manager, and McDonald displays sharp comic timing in his role as the former childhood sweetheart.