AMANDA AND EVE, Bailiwick Repertory. Alexandra Billings’s charming if somewhat stilted new play, Amanda and Eve (inspired by the Tracy-Hepburn film Adam’s Rib), explores the painful definition of marriage for a contemporary professional lesbian couple. Both the play and the movie pit married attorneys against each other as they take opposite sides in a spousal abuse case, but the play focuses on how the absoluteness of the law affects their feelings about same-sex marriage. While the righteous Eve feels that humanity must come before the law, the clear-headed, indignant Amanda insists that the law prevail, even when it refuses to acknowledge her commitment.

All of which should make for a pretty passionate play–especially when it’s billed as a comedy. Unfortunately, Billings’s ideas tend to get diluted by characters who talk, talk, talk as if they were locked in a 30s movie one moment and a bad 90s sitcom the next. The play comes to life only in the scenes that objectify the couple’s deep conflict. But director Chrisanne Blankenship-Billings has assembled a strong ensemble who make the most of this not-quite-ready script. Some of the supporting players absolutely shine, especially Adria Dawn as a boozy wife who shoots her husband and Leanne Beauregard as the husband’s flaky mistress. Though these are definitely “characters,” the actors illuminate these down-and-out women and make us care about their troubles. –Gabrielle S. Kaplan