Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, Lemmon and Matthau — Dave and Aaron? Yup. Though the names might be less familiar than those classic comedy duos, their silent play, Dave & Aaron Go to Work, is that great.
This five-years-in-the-making show by the titular performers, scenic designer Dave Jadico and puppet designer Aaron Cromie (with near-constant original accompaniment by Alex Bechtel), is a heartwarming story, an innovative experiment in puppetry, physical comedy and clowning. It’s also a tight, witty piece of writing — there’s no dialogue, but great use is made of the comic possibilities of the unspoken word.
Jadico and Cromie play the archetypal odd couple: Dave the slim, fastidious neatnik; Aaron the large, lumbering slob. They share a tiny apartment, shown in a perfectly choreographed morning routine, then seek work in the want ads, with each new job an excuse for a vaudevillian misadventure: As librarians, they concoct a clever but flawed method of putting books on impossibly high shelves. As zoologists, they inadvertently lose a huge lizard, a sly puppet cleverly manipulated by both performers. Their stint as power-line repairmen proves shocking.
The segments are punctuated by projections of the newspaper ads (“Librarians Wanted: Shushing a Must”) and post-debacle headlines, cherries on a sweet sundae. After yet another crushing failure, the team splits. But though the two are hapless together, they’re hopeless apart. Their inevitable reunion requires even more hilariously disastrous employment.
Director Lee Ann Etzold’s production never rushes or pushes, resulting in gentle, measured performance that feels refreshingly old-fashioned. Every element is executed with loving care and detail, from Katherine Fritz’s witty costumes and Cromie’s adorable puppets to Dominic Chacon’s artful lighting and Jadico’s surprise-filled set. This airy confection is a must-see.
Through Dec. 31, $28-$38, Plays & Players Theatre, 1714 Delancey St., 215-592-9560, 1812productions.org.