DETAIL OF A LARGER WORK, at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company. The last thing Lisa Dillman’s new drama needs is a fully staged production, but it’s getting one nonetheless through “New Play 2000.” Doddering 79-year-old painter Ed and his valiant, long-suffering wife Vanessa are visited in their Mexican hacienda by ambitious, unscrupulous photographer Zach and his taciturn waitress girlfriend. It seems we’re meant to watch Zach transform these two needy people into aesthetic fetishes, just as he did when he chronicled the dying days of a young man with AIDS in Santa Fe. But all Zach does is take a few inappropriate photos–he’s only a minor pest.

In fact it’s difficult to know what story Dillman wants to tell. The play seems to start over every 15 minutes or so, as though she were scrounging for ideas. Worse, she can’t create a credible dramatic predicament. Ed does little during the first act except dither in nearly deaf oblivion, then at the top of act two he suddenly decides he must paint some laurel trees in town before he dies, which he might do at any moment. But when he finally manages to get to his beloved trees–no small feat considering his wife’s insistence on keeping him home–he hasn’t brought his paints with him. With no discernible dramatic through line, this script needs several rewrites, not a production, especially one as clunkily paced as this.

–Justin Hayford