May 27, 2018

That’s Weird, Grandma: Holiday Stories Review – Holiday Tales with Flair

(left to right) Barrel of Monkeys company members Deanna Myers and Meredith Milliron perform “The Battle of Ice and Lava: Go Bears” in THAT’S WEIRD, GRANDMA: Holiday Stories, directed by Brandon Cloyd.
(left to right) Barrel of Monkeys company members Ashley Bland and Barry Irving perform “Day of the Dark” in THAT’S WEIRD, GRANDMA: Holiday Stories, directed by Brandon Cloyd.

“Honestly I might have to quit playwriting. Nothing I write will ever be as quality as this,” I texted my best friend, along with the full text of a story written by Alanna and Jonathan of Dixon Elementary School, starring Chicago’s favorite superheroes, Chance the Rapper and Batman. This story was written as part of Barrel of Monkeys’ educational creative writing program for Chicago Public School students and was one of several stories adapted into stage plays by the educators and performed in the latest incarnation of the company’s ongoing performance series, That’s Weird, Grandma. Frankly, “Day of the Dark” deserves a feature-length film adaptation, starring Chance the Rapper as himself. An idea as good as this one could only have come from a child.

(left to right) Barrel of Monkeys company members Barry Irving, Meredith Milliron, Deanna Myers, Caleb Probst, Rawson Vint and Mari Marroquin perform “Dear Hidolya” in THAT’S WEIRD, GRANDMA: Holiday Stories, directed by Brandon Cloyd.

I’ve reviewed That’s Weird, Grandma in the past; I was delighted to discover that some of my favorite holiday stories from last year, including Dear Hidolya, a musical adaptation of a sweet, endearing letter by two sisters explaining “what Hanukkah is mainly about” to a fictional alien, and The Time We Had a Snowball Fight, an epic, Matrix-style snowball fight, complete with grandiose music and slow-motion, choreographed movement. New additions include a monologue by a drum that doesn’t want to be played, a new interpretation of the iconic twins from The Shining (titled The Twins Who Freak Everyone Out), and a charming story of the day a child got their dog, told in its original Spanish.

(left to right) Barrel of Monkeys company members Mari Marroquin and Barry Irving perform “Tilly, Thunder, and Bob” in THAT’S WEIRD, GRANDMA: Holiday Stories, directed by Brandon Cloyd.

What the Barrel of Monkeys team does so well is treat all its stories with love. It’s easy to laugh at kids’ ideas in a mocking way, but Barrel of Monkeys’ educators seem to have a genuine appreciation for their student’s creativity and a desire to translate that creativity into the best performance possible. What struck me especially at this performance was the reaction of the children in the audience. Some of them were fussy, clearly out past their bedtime, but even in their restless state, they found great joy in the performance. Certain jokes that got chuckles from the adults earned uproarious laughter from the younger audience members. It’s clear that the adaptors keep both adults’ and children’s sensibilities in mind as they develop their work, making it a rare show that is truly for all ages.

(left to right) Barrel of Monkeys company members Caleb Probst, Meredith Milliron and Ashley Bland perform “The Time We Had a Snowball Fight” in THAT’S WEIRD, GRANDMA: Holiday Stories, directed by Brandon Cloyd.

The holidays can be stressful, but That’s Weird, Grandma: Holiday Stories is just the thing to relieve some of that stress and make the holidays joyful again. And if you can’t make it out to see their holiday show, a new That’s Weird, Grandma: Stories of Change runs January 22 – February 19 and will feature stage adaptations of children’s persuasive essays, which, like all Barrel of Monkeys’ show, is sure to be a delight.

(front) Barrel of Monkeys company member Barry Irving with (back, l to r) Bradford Stevens, Rawson Vint and Mari Marroquin perform “The Deer in a School” in THAT’S WEIRD, GRANDMA: Holiday Stories, directed by Brandon Cloyd. All photos by Evan Hanover.

Ticket Information

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

Dates: December 4 – December 23, 2017

Curtain Times: Mondays at 8 pm.

Added performancesThursday, December 21 at 8 pmFriday, December 22 at 8 pm and Saturday, December 23 at 8 pm.

Tickets: $15 for adults; $5 for children under 12. Discounts: $10 for students with ID, seniors, veterans and groups of 10 or more people. Tickets are available at the Barrel of Monkeys website or by calling (773) 506-7140.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*