Young playwrights have to start somewhere. "Fictions," a two-character drama at the Market Five Gallery on Capitol Hill, is playwright Bill Whitaker's somewhere. Right now he may be convinced of its great power and insight, but years from now, if he persists in the profession, I suspect even he will come to view it as an early work best forgotten.

The influence of Edward Albee hovers over the evening, but as yet Whitaker has all of Albee's pretentions and none of his virtues. The characters--a "semi-successful novelist" who is going blind, and his ex-wife--have come together to exorcise the past, strip away the fictions that have long clouded their relationship, and lay to rest once and for all the ghost of their daughter Polly, who died at the age of five days.

No sooner was she born, apparently, than the husband fled the hospital to go carousing in Toronto. Now his ex-wife is retaliating--primarily by rearranging the furniture and pitching soggy paper napkins at him. After she informs him that their second daughter, "Polly II," has a tumor in her head "the size of a lemon," a reconciliation is somehow effected.

There is precious little dramatic action here and the characters are not commanding enough in their misfortune to merit the 90 minutes Whitaker expects us to spend with them. They engage in long narrative speeches, dissect their motivations endlessly and play some cryptic Albee-esque "games." The tone is literary from beginning to end and nothing the performers, Louise Manske and David Corcoran, were able to do even remotely convinced me that I was in the presence of real people.

"Fictions" plays through Sunday, and then on June 2-5.