This show, in which adults interpret stories written by Chicago Public School kids, may be one of the more ingenious and pure-hearted hours of entertainment in the city: the grown-ups have great fun with, but never make fun of, their sources. Now, by adding a few holiday-themed performances to its open run, Barrel of Monkeys joins the crowd of troupes offering seasonal shows. Fans needn't fret, however, because this exuberant group of actors, comedians, and musicians retains its unique blend of the straight-faced and the surreal whether tackling a story about "Crazy Reindeer" Bob or a song about a boy eating a Christmas ornament. There are short tales about talking Christmas presents, enchanted Christmas trees, and the "Adbomidabal Snowman," and in the preview I saw, the company found simple ways to make even stories with no connection to the season fit the theme: in "Talking Hat Trying to Learn French," the hat was a Santa cap. But as the show's hilarious deadpan introduction advises, "Some stories have nothing to do with the holidays but have proven to give joy." They're not kidding. No matter how many times I see Barrel of Monkeys perform, I'm still awestruck by the creativity of director Halena Kays, musical director Jonathan Mastro, and the eager cast. Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland, 312-409-1954. Open run: Mondays, 8 PM; no shows January 12 and March 15. $8. The holiday shows run December 29 and January 5; shows with a Valentine's Day theme are planned for February 9 and 16.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/David Henderson.