When Shakespeare wrote, "The course of true love never did run smooth," he might well have been stating the central theme of "Sexo, Pudor y Lagrimas" ("Sex, Shame and Tears"), currently at Teatro de La Luna. Written by Mexican dramatist Antonio Serrano, the play outlines the lives of two couples who are friends.

Carlos (Alfredo Sanchez) is a writer/philosopher and a student of New Age spirituality. He spends a lot of his day doing yoga. His wife, Ana (Yovinca Arredondo Justiniano), supports him begrudgingly and is bothered by his lack of desire to enjoy the pleasures of the flesh as she does.

Nearby lives another couple, Miguel (Juan Pablo Vacatello), and his wife, Andrea (Marcela Ferlito Walder), who experience their own kind of disharmony. Miguel has strayed from the marriage, causing his wife much heartache.

Those problems would be enough to deal with in any plot, but Serrano ups the ante and accentuates the couples' marital stress by having two ex-lovers return. Tomas (Alex Alburqueque) comes back from a long trip around the world to visit Carlos and Ana, who just happens to be his ex-girlfriend.

'Sexo, Pudor y Lagrimas'
» Where: Teatro de La Luna, Gunston Arts Center, 2700 S. Lang St., Arlington
» When: Through March 9
» Info: $25 to $35; 703-548-3092; teatrodelaluna.org

And Maria (Liliya Ilnistky), a zoologist returning from Africa, comes to visit Andrea and Miguel, who just happens to be her ex-boyfriend.

Both Maria and Tomas need places to stay, so they are welcomed, warmly by Miguel and Ana, not so warmly by Andrea and Carlos. What could possibly go right?

In fact, the set-up is a disaster, and the entire play is a bedroom farce, with people moving from one apartment to another, in and out of doors, in and out of lives. Director Mario Marcel keeps the action moving swiftly, following the partners' dizzy movements, giving the play a sense of the unbalanced nature of Serrano's world.

The ensemble is extremely talented and well-equipped to make its rapid-fire comedic exchanges sizzle.

Marcel's set includes two modern spare apartments next to each other in a high-rise building in an anonymous city. Each has a door to a connecting hall. There is no wall between the two apartments, and the action often flows from one space into the other, increasing the sense of the unnatural reality onstage.

When the tension within each couple grows too great and all the individuals have offended each other enough, they break into a new pattern, with the women living together in one apartment, boycotting the men who live in another. Both groups are miserable. In the end, the original couples go their own ways.

Although it is very clearly a comedy, "Sexo, Pudor y Lagrimas" contains serious comments about love, which, Serrano seems to be saying, simply cannot be predicted, induced, outrun or controlled.