In writer-director Daisuke Tsujis cracklingly clever tour de force, which takes place on a planet of apes from which Roddy McDowell is conspicuously absent, a group of actors playing monkeys schmutz up their hair, cover themselves with brown paint, squawk and go chee-chee-chee in the aisles, and even toss feces at the audience. (You can examine the contents for yourself.) Tsujis amusing and ironic play tells the story of a strapping young monkey (Randy Thompson), who dreams of becoming a human being. His main reason for this wish is so he can fall in love with a sweet, human girl (Olivia Choate), who, in turn, wishes only that she could become a sexy monkey gal. Act 1 consists of the monkey boys Siddhartha-like attempts to find his place in the world he participates in what appears to be a simian rave (crisply and dynamically choreographed with dazzling Janet Jacksonesque moves by Anne Rene Brashier) and then heads to Monkey College. Just when one begins to suspect Monkey Madness is a one-concept piece, events in Act 2 take on a more mythic feel, as a creepy spirit (a towering, showstopping puppet from Cristina Bercowitz) offers both monkey and human the chance to realize their dreams for a terrible price. Tsujis artfully and energetic staging is both smart and dazzling spectacle here meshes engagingly with undercurrents of cerebral wit. A veteran of Cirque du Soleil, Tsuji uses shtick, choreography, a touch of Bunraku, and evocative acting and the show sizzles with quirky antics and, ultimately, unexpected sadness. The ensemble enact their simian roles with ecstatic glee, particularly Dee Amerio Sudiks monkey-elder lady in a performance so seductive, you forget youre really watching a human. Thompsons sweet monkey boy is equal parts Curious George and tragic boy-beast.
Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Starts: June 25. Continues through July 18, 2009