Stuff on My Head: The Best of Barrel of Monkeys, Barrel of Monkeys, at Live Bait Theater. If you’re a stickler for linear, literal plots, this 80-minute collection of 26 vignettes may be a shock to your system. But a welcome shock. The child authors–Chicago elementary school students who’ve been through a creative writing program with the Barrel of Monkeys children’s theater group–have created a world of fantastical whimsy. A diamond named Cindy is forced to eat eyeball ice cream, Under Wear hangs out with his friends Shirt and Tie at the park, and the bones fall off Mr. Bones, a skeleton.
No matter how far-fetched their roles, a talented team of 17 adult actors make these stories work, treating them with an infectious enthusiasm and conviction. Using comic puppetry and interjecting references that run the gamut from The Simpsons to film noir to Charlie Chaplin to blues, this ensemble, adeptly directed by Halena Kays, enhances the children’s stories. The audience doesn’t just laugh at the kids’ flights of fancy but is brought into these simple but oddly satisfying scenes. Ensemble member Jonathan Mastro’s witty, apt music and lyrics remain true to the essence of the writers’ ideas. A child’s imagination may be unparalleled, but the ingenuity of the Barrel of Monkeys ensemble is surely a close second.