Despite an appealing performance by Elaine Rivkin and Samuel C. Ball’s superb scenic design, John Belluso’s awkward fusion of love story and health-care polemic remains lifeless. In this midwest premiere, director Tim Farrell exacerbates the script’s problems by focusing on a peripheral character, a conscience-stricken HMO doctor (overplayed by Melissa Carlson), instead of its central characters: a resourceful working-class mother (Rivkin) and her paraplegic lover (well played by Aaron Roman Weiner). The woman’s choice between the man she loves and the medical care she needs might make a decent play, but her story as seen by the doctor–who’s given to discussing “splinters of connection,” perhaps the worst metaphor ever–is just tedious. Problems with health care may well be attributable to the system rather than individuals, but systems are weak dramatic players. Inept writing like Belluso’s gives agitprop a bad name. Through 11/14: Thu-Fri 7:30 PM, Sat 5:30 and 9 PM, Sun 2:30 PM. Victory Gardens Theater, second-floor main stage, 2257 N. Lincoln, 773-871-3000 (TTY 773-871-0682). $25-$28.