The play was a comedy about a politically liberal widow who runs for Congress and loses. She reacts to her defeat by going to bed first with her media adviser, then with her campaign manager. The audience seemed to love it. They laughed at almost every joke.

"An Almost Perfect Person" by Judith Ross opened at the McLean Community Center Friday night. It is a grassroots production staged by amateurs, all of whom live in Northern Virginia and who patronize the community center regularly.

The stars of the play should each be commended for their off-stage senses of humor. Mike Cohen, who plays the campaign manager with a genuine New York City accent, introduced himself as Al Pacino. Ronald Treichel is the irresistible Irish lover and media wizard. He wrote his own biography in the theater notes: "When not acting or working for the CIA in Iran, Ron is an amateur brain surgeon."

Joan Maloy, who mastered her role as the confused and defeated candidate, joked in her biographical sketch that she has an image to protect: "Her best roles are at home where she convinces her husband that her evenings out are for play practice."

The trio was funny on-stage, too. They carried off with style a play that was for the most part a string of fast back-and-forth jokes. Like this one.

"How did you leave your wife?"

"I told her '323-3468.'"

"What's that?"

"My attorney's phone number."

In real life, Treichel lives in Burke and is a "plain old civil servant" for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Maloy is a real estate agent who lives in McLean with her husband and three children. Cohen is also a resident of Burke and is doing direct mail fundraising for presidential candidate John B. Anderson.

The director of the play, Clarissa Jaffe, has been involved with the McLean theater group since its inception in 1970. That was before the days of the modernistic McLean Community Center, so plays were staged wherever space was available, first in the Dolley Madison Library, then in the Cooper Elementary School.

Despite the good opening night turn-out for "An Almost Perfect Person," Jaffe said there is a need to publicize events at the theater even more extensively.

"The audience is out there, it's just a matter of getting the word out," she said. "People don't know we're here. That's why we sell group tickets for ten or more people. These tickets can be resold for fundraising events at higher prices."

Jaffe added that the theater is supported by the dues of its 90 members and by ticket sales.

Dues-paying members help with the financial support of the theater, but that doesn't speak for the behind-the-scenes work of volunteer stage hands. Without their support, there would be nothing on stage.

Kevin Brady, a former drama student at Tufts University, was the stage manager for "An Almost Perfect Person." Brady said he enjoys the job of coordinating lights, props and actors, but directing is what he prefers. Last winter, he answered a newspaper ad and was awarded the task of directing "La Rond" at the McLean Center. The title, Brady said, refers to "a series of sexual encounters in the form of a musical round."

"You can't make a living in the theater," Brady lamented. "But here you can do three shows a year or as much as you want."

The two "prop girls" for the production are active in the world of drama, especially if one considers that they're 13 and 14 years old. Pam Halkett and Susie Ruben of Cooper Junior High School are both aspiring actresses with some experience in the field already behind them.

"We were in a group last summer called 'The Theater of the Imagination' here at the community center," said Halkett.

"It was an improvisation class," Ruben added. "The group got a grant from the National Council of Arts for the Handicapped. We toured nursing homes and put on shows."

Halkett and Ruben said they've also been on television, in a show called "Michael Joe's Kid Show." But their reaction to the world of television was less than enthusiastic.

"It was a bomb," Halkett said. "We needed a bigger space than the one they gave us. And he (Michael Joe) talked to us like we were kids."

The prop girls did have good things to say about "An Almost Perfect Person," as did many of those who showed up after the play at an opening night wine and cheese party. The reviews voiced there were unanimously favorable.

Well, make that almost unanimous. There was one person who disagreed with the majority opinion.

"The play was funny," the observer said. "But the performance wasn't 100 percent. I know it was opening night. I just thought it seemed a little rough and choppy."

This critic, however, could get away with his remarks. His name was Todd Treichel. His father, Ronald, played the leading man.