That’s Weird, Grandma, Barrel of Monkeys, at the Neo-Futurarium. This quirky, innovative children’s troupe is back with a “best of” show, drawing on over 1,000 stories the actors, comedians, and musicians have created over the past three years with Chicago Public School students. Since these are kids’ stories they sometimes end abruptly, and character and plot are often only tenuously linked. That’s a big part of this bizarre show’s appeal, however.
The adult performers in Barrel of Monkeys have all the energy of children on a postrecess high. They bound around the stage dancing, singing, and mugging, completely dedicated to the material regardless of how ridiculous it might be, committed to making even the most surreal part of a story work. Adding commentary and music to some of the narratives makes this fast-paced show even more hilarious.
The one flaw is having the actors give low-key readings of pieces while the audience is filing in. Performed far more energetically during the show, they’re read here with bemused detachment and even eye rolling. Yet the rest of the evening establishes in extraordinary fashion that these are more than just cute kids’ stories.