Anyone who has tried to remove old wallpaper knows that it can be a frustrating task. Imagine what it would be like if you thought the wallpaper was trying to remove you.

The intrepid Bare Portland theater company has devised a collaborative, site-specific and immersive piece based on Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s classic 1892 short story “The Yellow Wallpaper.”

The story concerns the descent of a woman, apparently suffering from a postpartum illness, into madness as she reacts to restrictions imposed on her by her family. Viewed as an early feminist work, the story asks the reader to consider whether her situation reflects a society-wide oppression of women.

This theater piece wanders around its subject, revealing what’s beneath the many layers of social convention that Gilman creatively decried. Traditional marital and medical biases are imaginatively explored with an emphasis on keeping things unsettling.

Under the direction of JJ Peeler, performers Catherine Buxton, Diana Clarke, Allie Freed, Tarra Haskell, Mackenzie O’Connor and James Patefield toss passages from Gilman’s story, as well as some original dialogue, from one to the other as they roam the relatively small, warehouse-like performance space.

In black tops with loose-fitting long skirts, the performers moved under suspended strands of lace, through flying shreds of paper and past hung patches of cloth, while draped sheets surrounded and ensnared them. Multi-angled, often hand-held lighting followed them up ramps and around the room.

Bits of percussion, ringing bells, singing and vocal chants provided more dimensions, as did some puppetry and a silent movie sequence. Sly humor and meta-comments from the performers added spice.

Audience involvement was encouraged in this piece that otherwise appeared to have been quite carefully prepared. The lack of separation between performers and audience made it an unusual theatrical experience.

A final anguished denouement served up the serious punch that Gilman packed into a story that clearly inspired the bold and adventurous artists of Bare Portland.

Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.