The Plexus Mime Theatre, which gave the first of two performances at the Publick Playhouse last night, consists of two men and a woman -- Robert Morse, Joe Mori and Jyl Hewston -- who are, all three, appealing personalities of multiple skills. From the start, they make you want to like them -- they reach out to the audience and invite their complicity -- sometimes even their participation--in the evening's make-believe.

They are, moreover, ambitious in their reach. As last night's program of five contrasting sketches demonstrated, they propose to stretch mime beyond any of its traditional frameworks (this has been the thrust of the new wave of worldwide mime for the past decade or so) and concoct original, unconventional forms. In so doing, they draw upon many venerable sources of popular entertainment: vaudeville (slapstick, sight gags); the circus (clowning, juggling); commedia dell'arte (masks, stock character types); acrobatics (balancing feats, tumbling); and a plethora of other modes.

Despite the seductiveness of the concept, the ideas -- on this occasion at least -- never quite seemed equaled by their realization. I hasten to add that this was my first encounter with the troupe, and it would be rash to generalize on this basis. For one thing, the sort of escalating excitement that can be generated when there's sufficient feedback between performers and spectators just didn't happen last night; the audience wasn't tiny, but neither was it large, and the responses didn't build. For another, the trio does many things well, but few things spectacularly so, and there are individual disparities -- Morse seemed the only one who could easily hold the stage on his own.

The most inventive piece -- spotty, but hilarious in its best moments -- was "The Kurlytov Family Cirkus," in which the three present themselves, speaking a droll pidgin-Russian, as an itinerant, borderline incompetent band of bumblers whose routines all follow Murphy's Law: Everything that can go wrong, does.