The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek, Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, at Breadline Theatre. Naomi Wallace’s portrait of Depression-era rural poverty, adolescent desires, and stunted prospects is wildly uneven, filled with Faulknerian turns of phrase and sledgehammer symbolism. Karen Kessler’s staging–a Chicago premiere by Rivendell–doesn’t overcome all the script’s drawbacks, but her performers do commit to the occasionally murky and overwritten dialogue, playing it with honesty and compassion.

Becca Kotler is beguiling as Pace, a frustrated teen who gets her kicks racing trains over a bridge, but her performance doesn’t always convey the character’s darker aspects. Jason Sawyer as Dalton, perhaps Pace’s boyfriend, is a little too callow–his supposed desperation to escape his soul-deadening environment never quite rings true. The best moments belong to Dalton’s parents, James Leaming as a beaten-down unemployed foundry worker and Tara Mallen as a glass-factory employee whose hands have turned permanently blue from chemicals. Their attempt to rekindle the passion that once brought them together plays out in a wistful game of plate tossing (broken glass is an overworked metaphor in Wallace’s writing).

But dramatic tension is lacking, and the play’s central events–which we know will happen long before they do–aren’t justified by Pace’s or Dalton’s previous behavior. Wallace usually opts for repetitive imagery rather than internal logic, and even the best efforts of a talented cast and director can’t overcome the resultant airlessness.