“We are athletes,” Ms. Bass said. “We’re also well over the age of retirement.”
Lisa McNulty, the theater’s producing artistic director, said the piece was not only about using the language of sports to describe the life of a dancer, but also about investigating “what it means to live a life of physical pursuit, and the beauty and the tragedy of that.”
And it’s still funny. Ms. Barnes is capable of that rare thing in modern dance: appealing to a broad audience.
Her recent hits include “Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host,” created with Ira Glass of “This American Life”; and “Happy Hour,” an immersive office party that features Ms. Barnes and Ms. Bass dressed as men. In “The Museum Workout,” a collaboration with the author and illustrator Maira Kalman, Ms. Barnes and Ms. Bass lead participants on a two-mile trek — part guided tour and part workout — through galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
There, the idea was to create a way for people to be physical in a museum, which had the potential to change their experience of looking at art. (It was a success: The show has also been extended into December.)
In “One Night Only,” there is as much rigor and repetition as there was in its early iteration, but, Ms. Barnes said, they found the humanity in it. “That’s so much why I think humor feels useful and not just fun,” she said. For her, laughter is a sign that audience members are paying attention. “They understood something,” she said, and they also feel like, yeah, I’ve had a similar experience.”
In the show, Mr. Saenz de Viteri plays the announcer, improvising large parts of his script. Ms. Barnes and Ms. Bass engage in competitive running, spinning and the snapping of fingers.
If Mr. Saenz de Viteri sensed a no-nonsense approach in their performance early on, he chalked it up to how this show in particular speaks to the reality of their lives: Their bodies require hours of maintenance and training.
“The culture believes there is a limitation to how long you can do this kind of thing for your job and to be onstage performing dance,” he said. “How do we make that interesting? Both because of the movement and because of that idea, we just started talking about athletes and…