Credit: Teresa Wood

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An intimate look at a long friendship that has reached its twilight stage, writer-director Morgan Gould’s world-premiere drama I Wanna Fucking Tear You Apart is so good for so long that it’s inability to stick the landing stings like a betrayal. There’s something unusually glossy and cable-ready about it. The piece opens with movie-style titles and credits flashing on an overhead monitor while Nicole Speizio and Tommy Helringer lip-sync their way through “Tear You Apart” by She Wants Revenge, a number from 2004 that even Interpol would’ve rejected as being too obvious a Joy Division rip-off. Their synchronized drag-show style dance in front of a glittery silver curtain is a weird introduction to the naturalistic and beautifully inhabited piece it precedes.

Spiezio and Heleringer have a persuasive rapport as Sam and Leo, respectively, longtime housemates who, having reached their mid-30s, are impatient for their writing careers to starting taking off. Their bond was forged in college, when Sam had not yet made peace with her obesity nor Leo with his gayness. Adulthood has put them both on more stable emotional footing. Whether their trench romance can survive in peacetime is Gould’s grand subject. Leo has become more gregarious in that interval, Sam more successful. Do these changing circumstances constitute a violation of their unspoken pact?

Spiezio and Heleringer are deeply likeable in their unlikability, and their us-against-the-world friendship is easy to invest in. The mastery of Anna O’Donoghue’s performance as Chloe, the “work wife” Leo brings over for drinks, sending Sam into a tailspin of jealousy, does not become apparent until the show’s final scenes, narratively errant though they are. For most of Apart’s 105 intermission-free minutes, we detest her. Chloe is a wispy, nauseating, emotional barnacle, the sort of person who’ll say “You’re funny!” but almost never actually laugh. Costume designer Ivania Stack works so hard to make the twenty-something Chloe look like an expired hippie that you may later wonder whether she was dressed to show us Sam’s jaundiced perception of her rather than how she really looks.

Gould’s anti-romance is so strong and believable as a character piece that when she injects a Neil LaBute-ian wrinkle of plot late in the show involving the epistolic novel Sam has been writing, it feels false. It isn’t so much that the specific scenario Gould concocts is laughably implausible (though it is), but that she felt the need, 90 minutes into the show, to yank the wheel this way at all. Have a little more confidence in your writing and in your three fine actors, Ms. Gould. You don’t need a twist.

At Studio Theatre to Feb. 19.1501 14th St. NW. $20-$55. (202) 332-3300. Studiotheatre.org.