SEXUAL PERVERSITY IN CHICAGO and THE LOVER, Wing & Groove Theatre Company. It took insight and creativity for the youthful Wing & Groove Theatre Company–inaugurating its new space in the Flat Iron Building–to pair these brilliant one-acts. Though David Mamet’s rat-a-tat raunch is worlds away from Harold Pinter’s enigmatic chitchat, both writers depict people who simultaneously seek and evade emotional connection as they improvise their way through various sexual fantasies.

But Andrew Gall’s indulgent direction lacks the stringent economy these plays require, allowing extraneous action and overstated line readings to muddy the rhythms and mute the scripts’ stinging humor. In The Lover–Pinter’s 1963 TV drama about a middle-aged couple who try to energize their marriage with erotic role-playing–Adrian Viccellio and Rae Bucher (both obviously too young for their parts) are unnecessarily loud and angry, belaboring the couple’s tedium and tension, and Bucher advertises the sexual subtext by rhythmically polishing a phallic ashtray, a vulgar sight gag that instantly undermines Pinter’s indirection.

Mamet’s 1974 Organic Theater hit, about a young couple trying to forge a relationship despite the interference of their jealous “best friends,” comes off better because the cast members, especially Autumn Lakosky and David Maddalena as the lovers, are closer to their characters’ ages. But Brian Loevner as Maddalena’s misogynistic mentor and Jessica Luukkonen as Lakosky’s hostile roommate clutter their repartee with blustery laughter or ironic attitude, missing crucial comic opportunities and dissipating the tension crucial to Sexual Perversity’s disturbing mix of cruelty and compassion.

–Albert Williams