Focused on the longings, failures, and vanities of theatre people, these short works by Joe Pintauro feel more like preliminary sketches than finished plays, as they're billed. While both the writing and director Geo Hartley's production offer amusing or moving bits, the full vignettes tend to lack shape, purpose, and emotional clarity. As a result, the show misses any universal appeal it might have had, and Pintauro's theatre people—even in the eyes of one who loves theatre people—begin to feel awfully tiresome and self-indulgent.

The show's points of interest come in the form of quirky characters, evocative images, and unusual situations—any of which could've been the jumping-off point for a satisfying one-act. "Climate" centers on a former New York stage actor torn between his new wife in L.A., who craves sunshine and bougainvillea, and Catherine, the ex-wife who moved West with him and pines, like he does, for city gray and cold November rain. While Catherine's nostalgic odes drew sighs from expatriate New Yorkers in the audience, the play offers its metaphor, then it ends.

Other memorable if unintegrated moments come from members of Hartley's diversely skilled cast. Dolorita Noonan gets laughs playing essentially the same sassy gum-smacker in "Bus Stop Diner" and "Serious Drama," and Priscilla Barnes gives an engagingly garish performance as a celebrated-actress-turned-bus-driver in "Meeting Toby."

The only extremely painful one of the six works is "Matinee Night," which features an actor (Kyle T. Heffner) who woos a young journalist (Juliette Jeffers). The actor, whom we meet backstage at his hit one-man show, is one of those "intense" pseudo-intellectuals who is either about to go off the deep end or wants you to think he is—the kind of actor who, if you met him at a cocktail party, would send you screaming into the street with a line like, "It's Monday night in my soul all year 'round until an audience shows up." As the journalist, Jeffers is supposed to appear charmed by this chatter, a seemingly impossible feat.

The evening's best offering by far is "$20 Drinks," which concerns the meeting of two old theatre-school friends: Star (Carolyn Hennesy), who has just won an Oscar, and Bete (Laura Skill), who has chosen family life over her acting career. Unlike its fellows, the play is simple, balanced, and emotionally vivid, offering just enough history to get us involved in these women's lives but not so much as to muddle things. Under Hartley's direction, Hennesy and Skill create full, well-measured portrayals, and the piece as a whole packs a surprising punch.

"What I Did for Love," presented by Geo Hartley at the McCadden Place Theatre, 1157 N. McCadden Place, Hollywood. Thurs. 8 p.m., Sun. 7 p.m. Aug. 11-Sept. 29. $13-15. (310) 275-9887.