SMALL CLAIMS, Needles Theatre Company, at Voltaire. When the most sensible and sympathetic character in a romantic comedy is a hopelessly square suburban lawyer both lovers resent, you know something’s askew. The lawyer has been called by his kid sister to defend her in a puny legal action brought by her ex-boyfriend, but it soon becomes clear that the ex-boyfriend is using litigation as a tool to get his girl back.

A heavy dose of sentimental charm could disguise the egotistical pettiness of this stratagem–after all, romantics are notorious for being childish, selfish, and foolish. Playwright Dan Nelson clearly finds these brats adorable, but Chris Petschler and Karen Weinberg fail to convince us of their devotion or even compatibility. Weinberg’s character comes off as a chronic whiner, admitting she doesn’t know what she wants but berating both men for not giving it to her. This leaves Stephen Walsh to steal the show with a nicely internalized, underplayed, and uncaricatured performance as the put-upon attorney.

–Mary Shen Barnidge