That's Weird, Grandma | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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That's Weird, Grandma


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That's Weird, Grandma, Barrel of Monkeys, at the Neo-Futurarium. This hour-long show adapted from the writings of fourth through sixth graders is carried by lively players and the sheer absurdity of some sketches (scientist collides with talking potato chip). It's accessible to children without boring adults to tears. In fact the opening-night audience seemed to find everything hilarious, from which I infer that they were friends of the performers, parents of the authors, or stoned.

To a sober adult unaccompanied by a child, perhaps half the evening is clever. "Escalator Argument," a consideration of escalators in schools illustrated by a long-suffering sock puppet (voiced and manipulated by the excellent Matthew Miller), is a riot. The company's rendition of "Bad Car," with Motown riffs ("The car flipped over, oh yes..."), is clever, as is the Devo-like contrapuntal "The Dog Was Dead." The performers also make excellent use of lip-synching, matching the exaggerated behavior of a hygiene film to the words of a ludicrous voice-over.

What really comes through is how limited an environment children inhabit (pets, bugs, school, and an outside world full of disaster) and how few skills they have for conveying their experience of it. That makes the show more touching than funny but doubles our reasons to be grateful to the adults who've treated this material respectfully. And there are laughs enough, especially if irony is your game, or if you're high.

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