Sometimes it's the most interesting of creative artists who will let you down the hardest -- they've climbed so much further out on the limb and have that much further to fall.Liz Lerman has been consistently one of the most stimulating and venturesome choreographers in the Washington area in recent years, but her new, hour-long "R.S.V.P." fails to come even within sighting distance of its ambitious goals.

The curious thing is that while Lerman strives here, as in the past, to reach an unspecialized audience by dealing with larger human issues, "R.S.V.P." may have a reverse off-putting effect. The work, performed at the Jewish Community Center Saturday night, is so mushy in shape, clumsy in execution and obscure in meaning that appreciation may be confined to an uncritical clique of groupies.

Certainly Lerman aimed high. One gathers -- not from the performers' movements or gestures, but by way of the program notes and some loaded, reiterated buzz words -- that "R.S.V.P." is concerned with life as an endangered species. What the choreographer neglected to take into account, however, was how outsiders (i.e. an audience) were supposed to make any connection between the chaotic shenanigas on stage and her elevated philosophical theme. And while the performances by members of the Dance Exchange (Lerman, some dance associates, and others ranging from a senior citizen to kids) may have sincerity on its side, it's a mess when it comes to precision, clarity or coherence.