Tuesday, December 18, 2018

REVIEW: Barrel of Monkeys Presents THAT’S WEIRD, GRANDMA Rings in the Holidays Through December 22nd, 2018

Still The BOM!

Barrel of Monkeys Presents
Rings in the Holidays
Directed by Artistic Director Brandon Cloyd
Through December 22, 2018 at the Neo-Futurist Theater

(left to right) Barrel of Monkeys company members Oly Oxinfry, Noah Appelbaum, Barry Irving, Ashley Bland and Kayla Pulley, perform “The Girl and the Panda” Photo by Evan Hanover.

Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar: 
An Original Sketch Show 
that is Written by Kids, Performed by Grownups, 
and Enjoyed by Humans

by bonnie kenaz-mara

All my teacher friends can attest to the fact that kids come up with some crazy stories. Barrel of Monkeys (BOM) takes this rampant kid creativity one step further by mounting these stories on stage and even adding music to some of the sketches. The result is a bit absurd, a bit surreal, and a big dose of funny. 

We can vouch for the "written by kids" claims, as every scene begins with the school and names of all the writers. We can also enthusiastically verify the "enjoyed by humans" part. My 17 year old son and I laughed throughout the production last night. In fact, we've been enjoying BOM shows for years. (**I do have to say, we've never laughed as hard as we did at the "Elephants Come To My House" sketch, years ago. That's still our reigning BOM fav.) That said, the current show's pretty freakin' funny! The jury's still out on the "performed by adults" part. I'd swear these professional actors are truly oversized children in disguise. They're the perfect blend of over the top energy, comedic timing, and wacky facial expressions to bring these pieces to life. Adults or not, they slay with this seasonal treat. 

(left to right) Barrel of Monkeys’ company members Kayla Pulley, Stewart Romeo, Meredith Milliron and Raquel Torre perform “Santa’s Mean Day” Photo by Evan Hanover.

What's more fun than a Barrel of Monkeys? How about a holiday themed compilation featuring Barrel of Monkeys faves from seasons past, mixed with nog snorting new nuggets of hilarity that are sure to make your holiday merry and bright. 

All the usual holiday suspects are here, like Santa, reindeer, elves, a poignant tribute to Hanukkah in song, and even Krampus. Yet BOM doesn't stop there. Expect a mash up of the macabre, including multiple monsters, apex predators, and dead rock stars in cozy concert venues. 

(left to right) Barrel of Monkeys company members Stewart Romeo, Meredith Milliron, Brandon Cloyd, Barry Irving and Kayla Pulley perform “Monster’s Belly” Photo by Evan Hanover.

(left to right) Barrel of Monkeys company members Brandon Cloyd, Raquel Torre and Oly Oxinfry perform “The North Pole” Photo by Evan Hanover.

In one of our favorite pieces, BOM makes a dramatic entrance "purse first", as a rather outspoken handbag named Betsey Johnson who scares her "purse landlord" into fulfilling all her demands. Purse first indeed! 

(left to right) Barrel of Monkeys company members Ashley Bland, Raquel Torre, Brandon Cloyd and Oly Oxinfry perform “Dear Purse Landlord” Photo by Evan Hanover.

We're still snickering over the directionally challenged child who tried to ride a reindeer southwest to the North Pole, a hip hop ode to the joys of messier houses that I'm completely on board with, and too many more to mention. Generally you have to wait for Mondays to roll around to catch these monkeys, but the holiday special is also happening this Thursday through Saturday, so you have zero excuses. It's a great, all ages show, as funny to young kids and teens as it is for so called "grownups". Don't miss this!

Bonnie Kenaz-Mara is a Chicago based writer-theater critic-photographer-videographer-actress-artist-general creatrix and Mama to two terrific teens. She owns two websites where she has published frequently since 2008: ChiILLiveShows.com (adult) & ChiILMama.com (family friendly). 

(left to right) Barrel of Monkeys’ company members Oly Oxinfry and Brandon Cloyd perform “Messier Houses” Photo by Evan Hanover.

 Barrel of Monkeys’ company members (front) Kayla Pulley with (back, l to r) Raquel Torre, Ashley Bland, Oly Oxinfry and Brandon Cloyd perform “Messier Houses”  Photo by Evan Hanover.

Barrel of Monkeys celebrates the season with 
Rings in the Holidays, 
directed by Artistic Director Brandon Cloyd, 
playing Mondays at 8 pm (plus special weekend performances) through December 22, 2018 at the Neo-Futurist Theater, 5153 N. Ashland Ave. in Chicago. 
Tickets are currently available at www.barrelofmonkeys.org or by calling (773) 506-7140.

Barrel of Monkeys’ beloved holiday special returns with a mix of classic stories from the That’s Weird, Grandma repertoire alongside brand new sketches and songs. Make That’s Weird, Grandma your family’s newest holiday tradition!

The cast includes Noah Appelbaum, Maeli Goren, Jordan Harris, Barry Irving, Meredith Milliron, Oly Oxinfry, Kayla Pulley, Mary Tilden and Raquel Torre.

Now in its eighteenth year, THAT’S WEIRD, GRANDMA features adaptations of stories written during Barrel of Monkeys’ creative writing residencies in Chicago elementary schools. BOM’s ensemble of professional actors, comedians and musicians bring the young authors’ stories to life as raucous sketches, songs and movement pieces, performing first for students in their schools and then for the public. These stories – from hilarious dialogues between unlikely characters to poignant pleas for social change – resonate with adults while celebrating the imaginations of young people. Every week brings a new line-up of stories, and BOM invites audiences to vote on their favorites at each performance.

 (left to right) Barrel of Monkeys’ company members Barry Irving, Kayla Pulley, Ashley Bland and Stewart Romeo perform “The Butler” Photo by Evan Hanover.

Location: Neo-Futurist Theater, 5153 N. Ashland Ave. in Chicago

Performance Schedule
Monday, December 10 at 8 pm (preview)
Monday, December 17 at 8 pm (press performance)
Thursday, December 20 at 8 pm
Friday, December 21 at 8 pm
Saturday, December 22 at 8 pm

Tickets: Preview: $10 for adults, $5 children 12 and under, $8 groups of 10 or more. Regular run: $20 for adults in advance; $5 for children 12 and under; $12 for seniors, students, veterans/military and groups of 10 or more. Teen Arts Pass (TAP) members: $5 with ID. Tickets are currently available at www.barrelofmonkeys.org or by calling (773) 506-7140.

About the Director
Brandon Cloyd joined Barrel of Monkeys in 2007 and has been deeply involved in many facets of the company ever since. Prior to joining BOM, Brandon graduated from Northwestern University with a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre and a minor in Business Institutions. Within BOM, Brandon has served as an actor, teaching artist, lead teacher, a member of Teacher Corps, as well as directing shows for schools and public performances of That's Weird, Grandma. Before becoming the company’s Artistic Director in September 2017, Brandon served as BOM After-School Program Coordinator at Loyola Park from 2014-2016 and Program Director from 2016-2017. Outside of Barrel of Monkeys, he worked as the Associate Director of Camp Echo, where he has spent 13 summers managing campers and staff at a co-ed sleep away camp in Upstate New York. Brandon has worked with other theatre companies including Urban Theatre Company, American Theater Company, Filament Theatre, InGen Productions, ACLE's Teatrino in Italy and Purple Crayon Players at Northwestern University.

(pictured) Barrel of Monkeys company member Meredith Milliron performs “Jerry Like to Work” Photo by Evan Hanover.

About Barrel of Monkeys
Since Barrel of Monkeys’ inception in 1997, its teaching artists have served more than 60 Chicago Public Schools. Over 15,000 elementary school students have participated in the Barrel of Monkeys programs, which aim to build students' writing skills, improve self-esteem, and instill confidence in their ideas and abilities.

Barrel of Monkeys is sponsored in part by Wintrust Financial, Allscripts, Inc., Ernst and Young and Punchkick Interactive. It receives generous support from the Illinois Arts Council Agency; the National Endowment for the Arts; a CityArts Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events; the Chicago Community Trust; Crown Family Philanthropies; Alphawood Foundation of Chicago; the Maurice R. and Meta G. Gross Foundation; Polk Bros Foundation; the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation; the Robert and Isabelle Bass Foundation, Inc.; The Saints; The Topfer Family Foundation, and many other generous individuals and foundations. 

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