THE PARADOX OF INSANITY…I MEAN, HUMANITY, Zeitgeist Theater, at Live Bait Theatre. As the title implies, writer and performer Rick Almada is a bit touched. His one-man multiple-character showcase–featuring a Japanese chiropractor action hero, a skittish crook haunted by the ghosts of celluloid gumshoes, and a government scientist marveling at his colleague’s abduction by aliens–could easily be dismissed as the random misfirings of corroded neural synapses. And while a few of the evening’s eight pieces are as muddled as the pronouncements of a psychotic, most of Almada’s work is so unique and beguiling that it’s clear he’s touched not by madness but by genius.

Almada’s characters are as blunt and officious as overtaxed bureaucrats or infomercial hosts, yet somehow he renders them vulnerable and human. The disheveled advertising exec Larry Kyle may admonish members of an unidentified graduating class, “You suck, you lack initiative, and you just shouldn’t–every time you think you should,” but his own insecurities make him pathetic, not mean. And Almada isn’t afraid to go off the comic deep end, concluding the evening as a silver-faced cyborg taking notes while watching a janitor dance with a mop on a moonless moonlit night in a canyon invaded by a mist whenever he speaks in rhyme. I can’t imagine what Almada is getting at, but the care and intelligence with which he pieces his images together elevates them above wackiness to poetic surrealism.

–Justin Hayford