You could drive a herd of cattle through the dead spaces in Gabriel McKinley's sere, Old West-set two-hander "Love Sick." The talk is as empty as the pauses here. When a querulous young prostitute, Jinx (Stefanie Frame), tries to befriend a cranky, boozing outlaw named Tax (Mr. McKinley), these two inarticulate souls neither spark to each other nor clash with much fire. Instead they gingerly circle the obvious, then state and restate it, until finally one of them has the sense to shoot the other.
The play's sharpest exchange comes after Jinx offers herself to Tax as a no-strings love offering. "I'll be constant, like a river," she says. "Rivers dry up," he retorts. "Like a rock, then," she offers. "Good enough," he snorts.
With the dissolute, downbeat Tax, Mr. McKinley seems to be aiming for a portrait of bone-deep guilt and alienation. But this grizzled loser's suffering is merely pathetic, not poetic. He's holed himself up in a remote shack to lick his wounds after inflicting a few: he killed his best friend for dancing with his girl, and left her much worse for wear, too. "I only hit her when she deserved it," he tells Jinx, though he clearly doubts that tidy explanation.
Poor, simpering Jinx, hopeful that her love can mollify if not redeem Tax, simply nods agreement. But eventually even this craven enabler knows when to cut and run. Likewise, though he hasn't written much of a play (it lasted 45 minutes), Mr. McKinley does know when to end it.