Nine months ago it was a promising mess. After a major overhaul, which lopped off nine-tenths of the melodrama, Nomenil’s first piece, Pushin’ Up Roses, delivers on that promise. In this condensed version of their bit of theatrical mischief, writers Allen Conkle and Courtney Evans still refuse to play nice: they create an absurdly fetid, adolescent, lesbian-thrasher subculture in which the terminally belligerent yet painfully shy Rose tries to rise to the top like pond scum. But with its newfound efficiency the play leaps over the gooey pitfalls that ensnared it last spring, weighing down its giddy irreverence with oh-so-earnest musings about the nature of love. Nomenil struggles to keep the production from turning too deeply inward during its most heartfelt moments, but in reshaping the play into a fable about the irreconcilable nature of love and discipline Conkle and Evans demonstrate an unexpected philosophical bent. Best of all, Jackie Katzman returns as the uncharacterizable Urchin, a Mephistophelian character so full of bizarre, unpredictable contradictions she has to be seen to be believed. Cafe Voltaire, 3231 N. Clark, 665-0126. Through February 24: Thursdays-Fridays, 7 PM. $5.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Del Nakamura.