Although Victor Gialanella's "Ivory Pawns" was judged the best newatre's recently concluded Washington Theatre Festival, it is premature to give the work an independent three-wed with other plays in the festival, its virtues may have seemed abundant. But all by itself in the Source's W through Aug. 21, it registers as a piece of theatrical minimalism, unable as yet to declare its real concerns.

Gialanella has ries of vignettes, set in the corner of a park on the Upper West Side of New York that is regularly inhabited by three old men. The men playOne of them tosses out popcorn for the birds, which appear to have permanently disappeared. They talk about th, their health and impending death. They joke and squabble. A young married woman jogs by periodically and strhip with the youngest of the geezers. This provokes the momentary jealousy of the other two. Between scenes, a Scott Joplin rag lemelancholy to the proceedings.

Much of the conversation revolves around the ivory pawns on the chessboard, anella intends them as a symbol, although I would be hard pressed to say a symbol of what. His theme seems to f friendship, but if there is a subtext to the meandering dialogue, it is buried so deeply as to be indiscernis production.

Then, after giving us an act and a half of oblique chatter, Gialanella has one of his old menark bench. Soon after the other two are engaged in a game of Russian roulette. If nothing else, it makes for alimate--a dramatic twister suddenly materializing out of a still, gray sky.

Of the four performers recruited Pete Holm, is convincing. With his unruly whiskers, his droopy but cheerful eyes and his bent but sprightly soyishness that can persist even in old age. And he does appear to be having a genuinely good time with his parother two, Joe Glenn and Joe Schubert, are playing at old age, however, and Cam Magee, as the jogger, merely seems adrift in a role without clear definition.

Director Pat Murphy Sheehy has been unable to extract anything but the most obvious mystery from the script. As a result, what "Ivory Pawns" resembles most is the shell of a David Mamet play, bled of Mamet's troubling resonance. All is surface and the surface is just not tantalizing enough.

IVORY PAWNS. By Victor Gialanella. Directed by Pat Murphy Sheehy. Set, Henry Shaffer; lighting, Steve Siegel; sound, Eric Annis. With Joe Schubert, Pete Holm, Joe Glenn, Cam Magee. At Source's Warehouse Rep through Aug. 21.