On a Sunday afternoon, Chilean playwright Jorge Diaz read two items in a newspaper: a lonely-hearts advertisement signed "Hopeful" from a woman "searching for a soul mate" and the account of an enraged husband who killed his wife because she hadn't told him about her flat feet during eight years of marriage.

From such material is drawn the theater of the absurd.

"The Toothbrush" (El Cepello de Dientes ), now playing at the Gala Hispanic Theater, is an example of Latin America's theater of the absurd.

Like Ionesco, Pinter, Beckett and Albee, Diaz probes the lack of commmunication between human beings. The absurdists have not been noted for invoking gusty laughter or suspense amide their metaphysical examiniations. But Diaz tries with some success to be both funny and suspenseful.

The play opens with two torso mannequins, male and female, placed on two chairs at a dining room table. On the wall of the hallway appear silhouettes of a man and a woman embracing. When the husband and wife appear on stage, the arguments begin. Then follows the dreary humdrum of everyday married life -- the intrusions of commercialism, the monologues to the audience, the non sequiturs.

The husband becomes enraged that his toothbrush has disappeared and his wife wants him to share hers. His records have become dusty because she will not dance the tango with him. Eventually, the rage explodes into a surreal violence.

Jane Lange and Anthony Brienza perform their demanding roles with energy. For the performances in Spanish, their roles will be taken over by Noel Carvajal and Herminia Parra.

Raul N. Rizik, the director, has staged "The Toothbrush" with imaginative touches -- the silhouettes, lighting, mannequins, mirrors that catch the faces of the audience, a room furnished with Victorian furniture on the husband's side and Danish modern on the wife's side.

The Gala Hispanic Theater is staging both English and Spanish versions of "The Toothbrush" at the small theater in a reconverted townhouse at 2319 18th St. NW.

Performances in English will be given today through Sunday at 8 p.m. with a Sunday matinee at 3 p.m. The Spanish version opens June 6 and runs through June 22 on the same TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE