The Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble is performing a pair of works -- a revival of their earlier "Mirrors" and a new piece called "Touch" -- in one program at the Defibrillator Performance Art Gallery.

There is much about "Touch and Mirrors" to admire, its literary source among them. Both employ beautiful thoughts and wisdom from the 13th-Century Sufi poet known as Rumi. Both works stylistically skirt the edge of the dance-theater envelope, offering a raw, unconventional mix of forms in the tiny, pleasant quarters of this storefront space. For those of us who spend a lot of time in large, formal theaters, this is a welcome trip to the fringe.

Both also boast high points--and shortcomings. Credit writer-director-choreographer Ellyzabeth Adler for her adventurism, but "Touch and Mirrors" winds up an enterprise whose avant-garde merits don't overcome its production inadequacies.

Curiously, the strengths and weaknesses prove different in each of the pieces. "Touch," the opener, manages, with some annoying detours, to craft a powerful tale of love, loss, grief and forbearance. Set in a cemetery, it stars veteran Chicago actor Steven Fedoruk as an aged widower whose wife died in childbirth, counseling an eager young woman, played by waif-like Lisa Leszczewicz. Various other couples and a mysterious painter wander in and out, their stories glimpsed in miniature. By the end, we feel not just for the old man, but for the bittersweet contradictions of love itself, enlightened by Rumi's commentary.

But the dance is spare and rudimentary, the acting uneven and the visual elements rather slack--films on the back wall depict sunny, almost vacation-slide-show images of the cemetery, coffee-table bright while Rumi is muted and complex. Nicely, the piece opens with Paul Karner as an appealing troubadour, but he exits right away and might serve the piece better to stay as ongoing motif.

In contrast, "Mirrors," a surreal, somewhat symbolist story of four characters confronting their lives, has some nice choral dance sequences, including, odd as it may sound, one effective disco outburst and a marvelous whirling dervish finale--quite thrilling in the gallery's confined spaces.

But here the storytelling and dramaturgy are murky and ineffective--we enjoy the movement, but don't really learn much about any of these characters.

"Touch and Mirrors": Two works by Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble
When
: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays through May 25
Where: Defibrillator Performance Art Gallery, 1136 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Price: $15 (in advance) and $20 (at the door); danztheatre.org.