DAMAGE AND DESIRE, Bailiwick Repertory. Whenever Kate Moira Ryan decides to complete one of the dozen or so plays she’s started in Damage and Desire, she might produce a worthy 90 minutes of stage time. But for now she simply jumbles together discussions of victim art, career stalls, martinis, sperm donation, the splintering of the women’s movement, the splintering of the gay movement, tequila, and lesbian literature by three characters: old-school lesbian separatist Madison; her aimless, burned-out sister Oona; and Oona’s self-absorbed party boyfriend Jack. Like so many contemporary playwrights, Ryan rarely moves beyond drama by proclamation: the characters announce their every emotional hiccup but rarely act on any of them.

The most intriguing story belongs to the two sisters. Madison is beginning chemotherapy for breast cancer and must turn over her 17-year-old literary review, Blood Root, to Oona, a once promising poet with nothing but contempt for her sister’s old-style radicalism. Here the personal and political intertwine in promising ways: imagine all the trouble Ryan might cause if she developed her vision of 1970s feminism as cranky and cancerous and 1990s feminism as flighty and irrelevant. But the sisters’ struggle becomes mere background to the comparatively spiritless squabbles between Oona and Jack. With such unfocused material, all that Shifra Werch’s cast can do is mark time until called upon to get really upset.

–Justin Hayford