DUSA, FISH, STAS & VI, Watershed, at the Athenaeum Theatre. The women of the title are four roommates who grapple with, among other things, anorexia, divorce, child snatching, stalking, unrequited love, feminism, gender equality, biological-clock imperatives, working through school as a “paid escort,” and social activism. This they do in properly supportive sisterly fashion, while lounging, cooking, exercising, and consuming gallons of coffee and red wine.

This is enough material for a dozen plays, and given that the ending can be foreseen a good 30 minutes in advance, personalities become very important. Unfortunately Pam Gems has sketched her characters so sparingly that we never get to know them well enough to care about them. Director Tonya Allen’s attempt to update the action from 1976 London to present-day Chicago only compounds the script’s artificiality. (Why does Stas, full-time biologist and part-time hooker, never mention AIDS? Why are these four presumably independent adults living together in the first place?)

The members of the Watershed company struggle valiantly to give some life to this debut production, but only Louisa Heinrich, as the tough-talking Fish, and Larissa Borkowski, as the cheerfully amoral Stas, succeed in turning Gems’s human editorials into people we might want to know.

–Mary Shen Barnidge