CAUGHT IN THE WEB, Performance Theatre, at the Performance Loft, Second Unitarian Church of Chicago. This interesting hybrid of long-form improvisation and conventional playwriting has promise, but in the end Kelsey Hartman’s confusing new comedy garners more puzzlement than laughs. With the Performance Theatre ensemble, Hartman and director Darcy Hughes have cobbled together two one-acts about emotional dislocation in a technological world. The misfits and heroes of the plays lead surreal lives, transgressing time and space, that make very little sense despite the characters’ energetic physicality. As a result the plays feel misshapen, the comedy half-baked. Caught in the Web has more enthusiasm than sense, as feminist satire and touches of performance art contrast with the cast members’ casual stereotypes, both in the plays themselves and in the sloppy improv exercises between scenes.

I wanted to like this risk-taking production, which combines vastly different styles and ideas. It takes a certain amount of guts to intersperse sapphic poetry with talk-show boorishness. But during intermission I overheard one audience member rename the show “Not Enough Laughter.” She was right on the mark–the Performance Theatre, in its debut production, has gotten trapped in its own complicated web. This comedy is too encrypted; it just doesn’t translate.

–Carol Burbank