Squirreled away in a desk drawer, I have a three-dimensional puzzle made up of about twenty notched wooden pieces that, when properly fitted together, make up a perfect sphere. I haven’t solved this puzzle in years, but my memory is that there is a magical moment in the process when enough pieces are in the right place that the way forward suddenly starts to make perfect sense: the puzzle’s logic, so to speak, reveals itself.
Watching The Pajama Men’s current show at City Theatre is a little like solving that puzzle (although way easier and light-years more entertaining!). What starts out as an odd standup routine quickly morphs into a series of little scenes, each with a set of seemingly unrelated characters in disparate times and places, but as the two performers rapidly jump-cut from scene to scene the connection of each of these parts to the whole all at once comes into view, and the story – which up until that moment was like a pile of mysteriously shaped puzzle pieces – makes perfect, albeit weird and absurd, sense.
It’s a story of a beast that ravages a village, and a king who drinks of an immortality potion to slay the beast, and a wizardly henchman named Leopold with a hunchback and a goofy Igoresque B-movie accent, and a couple of frenemy Southern gals, one of whom may or may not have lost an arm, and two macho policemen, and a pair of insecure teenagers, and what I can only describe as a spoof on “the world’s most interesting man” and his motorcycle…everything comes in twos in this 70-minute show, which is aptly titled “Just the Two of Each of Us.” All of the characters are conjured by the writer-performers Shenoa Allen and Mark Chavez, and I use the word “conjured” deliberately here: wearing only pajamas, and using only a pair of chairs as props, Allen and Chavez weave pee-in-your-pants funny theatrical magic with nothing but their insanely versatile voices and bodies (and some help from Kevin Hume, who provides musical accompanimment from a keyboard upstage). Their humor ranges from groan-inducing so-bad-they’re-good puns to astonishing feats of physical comedy, with just about every level of silly and inspired bit of tomfoolery and utter zaniness you can imagine in between. It’s pretty hard to describe just how bizarre and delightful this pair of performers is, so I’ll end this post with a link to a video of a performance from 2009, and urge you to catch them live while they’re in town. You won’t regret it.