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Monkey Madness

In writer-director Daisuke Tsuji’s 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.) Tsuji’s 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 boy’s 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 Jackson–esque 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. Tsuji’s 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 Sudik’s monkey-elder lady in a performance so seductive, you forget you’re really watching a human. Thompson’s 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

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