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Review Tue Feb 09 2010
Barrel of Monkeys is an organization who's mission is summed up in the tag line: "Kids Write it. We Do It. World Saved." Every one of the 16 acts in That's Weird, Grandma was written by a Chicago Public School student. The company uses different techniques for each act: in The Mystery Glasses, written by Alicjak V. of Loyola Park, actors hold up colored papers printed with key words that move the story along; in Untitled (Graffiti Argument) by Anita M. of Little Village, scraps of fabric are deftly used to represent graffiti; and My Happy Remember, by Naudia W. of Reavis, is a miniature musical unto itself.
Over the course of an hour or so, BOM entertains the audience and finds the inner meaning in children's writing without becoming cloying or condescending. This is primarily a kids show, but I never felt out of place, and I doubt that anyone really could. There is something happily familiar about watching an ensemble of actors take on stories with titles like: Superheroes; My Dad at Panda Express; and Man in Jam in dress-up closet costuming and a playful confidence. It reminded me of the television of my youth -- shows like The Electric Company, 3-2-1 Contact, and Sesame Street, only more entertaining and much funnier.
No two performances of That's Weird, Grandma are the same-- audience members fill out a survey highlighting the best and worst sketches from each show, and the next performance is revised accordingly. I circled my two favorites, but couldn't think of a single one that I didn't enjoy - the show was as funny and satisfying as anything geared towards adults.
That's Weird, Grandma runs on Sundays at 2pm through April 4, and beginning March 8 will also show on Monday nights at 8pm. Tickets are $9 for adults, $4 for children. For tickets and info call 312-409-1954 or visit Barrel of Monkeys.