Stuffed with charm and surprising insight (surprising only because said insight is bookended by pratfalls and melodramatic tango attempts), The Companion Piece is the vaudevillian brainchild of director Mark Jackson and actor Beth Wilmurt. It opens with a thigh-slapping, hip-swiveling misanthropic comedian of yore who yucks it up for about ten minutes before walking offstage. Once he's passed from presumed audience range, he allows his persona to drop and his smile to disappear - giving the audience the first inkling that this performance will run deeper than your average slapstick.
Next up is the meat of the show, a modern theatrical duo who yank an array of acts from their proverbial hat - trampolines, accordions, tap dances performed in fluffy yellow dresses, and a painfully funny episode of Chinese telephone that morphs some of poetry's great lines into phrases like “I glove you, whore.”
Theater is really about relationships - from a man climbing into a woman’s hiding place to cheer her up with foot puppetry to a blistering offstage argument that will prove profoundly uncomfortable to anyone who’s ever been in a relationship. The Companion Piece blends the fantasies and creative quandaries of the actor, the collaborative process, and the choices actors (and, as you soon realize, people) make to follow their hearts, tying them together in a way that seems random and nonlinear until the curtain goes down and your brain begins to click through the whacked-out whimsy to find the channels of meaning.
Through February 13. Z Space, 450 Florida Street. Tickets are $20-40 at zspace.org.