Dramatic inspiration requires theatrical invention, but the latter is lacking for Mark Jaster's "Jazz Mime: A Peformance of Silent Music." This is the final summer bill of Shakespeare & Co. in the Trapier Theater on the Washington Cathedral close, ending Aug. 20.

It would take 14 peers of Marcel Marceau to realize Jaster's notion of silent, mimed incidents in a night club that James Fenhagen has designed with canny economy. We watch the staff welcome patrons, an emcee introduce the comic and quartet of painist, bass, sax and drums. After about an hour that seems eternity all drift away and the waitress makes still another fruitless phone call.

While they move, the musicians' fingers do not suggest intimacy with instruments. Apart from a striking notion of "freezing" action, the patrons are not used for the diversity they might be expected to reflect. Their gestures too often are indeterminate. At one point an explosion seems to occur outside but what it means is not clarified. A girl singer mimes to the band more often than to the audience. Not enough happens.

Only the most skilled, experienced mime performers and an inventive director could achieve Jaster's concept. "Jazz Mime" is an indulgence carried to an extreme.