Quake, American Theater Company. Melanie Marnich’s postfeminist fable chronicles a good girl’s craving for experience: Lucy dares to pursue “Big Love.” The North Star of her surreal journey is That Woman, an astrophysicist serial killer who doesn’t hate the men she kills–she just “can’t take what love is really like compared to the love she wants.” Like a female Forrest Gump, Lucy is guileless, traveling her erotic road until she’s battered. When she reconnects with That Woman, the outlaw has become a suburban PTA mom who confesses it didn’t take a rocket to stop her–“it only took a rock.” Energy doesn’t disappear, it’s transferred.

Filled with astral imagery, the play is poetic: its wordplay intricate, its humor bittersweet. It’s easy to see why director William Payne couldn’t resist it. Yet the production is an intriguing misfire. Much of Marnich’s starry impressionism is lost in a literal presentation, two-dimensional and cartoonish. Some of the performances, however, are outstanding: Kate Buddeke as That Woman, Andrew Micheli as various guys, and Editha Rosario as a gas station clerk who’s been shot so often she’s stopped paying attention.

Quake’s retro message on the disillusionment of the true believer is quietly subversive. It doesn’t admonish women to guard their virtue but to manage their expectations: Be careful what you wish for. Having your socks knocked off could hurt.