Barrel of Monkeys honors childrens’ creativity
Kids write It. We do it. World Saved.
Thus is the motto of Barrel of Monkeys’ hilarious show “That’s Weird, Grandma!,” running for 15 years and still going strong. Unique in concept, the show’s material is derived from stories written by the Chicago Public School students in the company’s in-school residencies and after-school programs. The stories are adapted for the stage and rehearsed by ensemble members, performed for students at their schools, and also performed for the lucky public weekly in Andersonville.
Laugh your heart out
With child authors, it’s no surprise that most of the 15 stories on stage were imaginative and whimsical.
“Where does the dancing cow go?” was an ode to the source of dreams, “Mountain Top” involved a heartbroken ocean who cries rivers of blood, and “Untitled (The Way of the Soup)” charts the protagonist’s love/hate relationship with soup.
The stories rotate, with some kept and some deleted each week by audience vote. The show is constantly changing. For solo adults, one visit is likely enough. Families though, should absolutely take advantage of this ever- changing show bringing children back more than once. The tone is unrelentingly silly; prepare to giggle for over an hour.
The uniformly strong ensemble goes all out in its delivery.
(This ensemble includes dozens of people. On this review date, the cast included: Ashley Bland, Brandon Cloyd, Nick Hart, Cedar Larson, Spencer Meeks, Krista Mickelson, Meredith Ibey Milliron, Deanna Myers, Corrine Neal, Hailey Palmer, Geoff Rice, Joseph Schupbach, Gwen Tulin, and Rawson Vint.)
Sometimes the ensemble uses the author’s text verbatim, and sometimes they insert dialogue or subplots to fill out the basic story.
They also compose lots of songs—with a keyboard in the room and actors unafraid of belting lead to many a silly song and dance number.
You will also enjoy their liberal use of wigs, boas, and an assortment of homemade paper props.
The DIY feel of the production reminds us that we don’t need elaborate sets or expensive costumes to make theater—just our imaginations.
Recommended for: Families! The audience is full of kids and their parents.
Not recommended for: Classy date nights.
Current: January 8-29, Sundays at 2pm
That’s Weird, Grandma: Rise of the Rock Spectacular
March 5 – 27, Sundays at 2 pm & Mondays at 8 pm
That’s Weird, Grandma: I Still Know What You Did Last Spring
April 24 – May 22, Mondays at 8 pm
That’s Weird, Grandma: Attack of the Phantom of the BBQ
June 12 – July 17, & August 7 – 28, Mondays at 8 pm
The Neo-Futurist Theater
5153 N. Ashland, Chicago
Photo Credit: Evan Hanover
Susanna Hostetter is a dancer and teaching artist, exposing hundreds of Chicago Public School students a year to dance through renowned dance education organizations. She holds a B.A. in Anthropology and Dance from Macalester College in St. Paul, MN, and is an avid attendee of Chicago theater, music, and cultural events.