S.A.L.T., Rhinoceros Theater Festival, at No Exit Cafe. Over the last decade writer-performer Dan Sutherland’s involvement in theater has come to seem a lot less important to him given the complexities of life raising a family. Fortunately a bit of distance on one’s work can have a good effect, and Sutherland has now produced a firm, unpolluted, back-to-basics solo piece (with a little help from a friend or two). S.A.L.T.–which originated from a one-word audience suggestion, “salt,” during a lecture series at Milwaukee’s now defunct Hermetic Gallery–revolves around a character whose life “isn’t based on important things,” in Sutherland’s words.

Playing a schlub who scours junkyards for auto parts as part of the Ford Motor Company’s top-secret “Special Assets Location Team,” Sutherland begins by lulling the audience into a state of near boredom with a training seminar on engine mounts and carburetors. Things implode as he starts revealing his transcendental experiences in an abandoned prospecting town in Death Valley, and a seemingly incongruous science experiment involving salt and a pitcher of Milwaukee’s Best ends up–much like the guy’s sales pitch–devolving to its most natural state. S.A.L.T. isn’t quite seamless, though Sutherland unpacks his bizarre tale with the kind of painstaking care that tends to iron out the bigger creases in his charmingly rumpled performance.