This weekend marks the opening of Adventure Theatre MTC’s 5 Little Monkeys, the fifth production of the theatre’s season. Settling into the show’s final dress rehearsal on Thursday night, I wondered to myself: how in the world are they going to take a short children’s book about 5 monkeys falling off the bed and turn it into an entertaining hour-long production?
Why oh why, when it comes to Adventure Theatre MTC, do I ever ask why? I should know better by now.
Directed by Karin Abromaitis and produced by Michael J. Bobbitt, the cast of 5 Little Monkeys and one extremely patient and forgiving mother, takes us through the seemingly innocuous parts of any parent’s, human or apparently monkey, day with young children and sheds light on how absolutely nothing is simple with a gaggle of children in tow. Valerie Leonard is exceptional as the patient and even-tempered mother of 5 rambunctious monkeys and as she introduces the audience to monkeys 1-5, she skillfully describes each monkey’s temperament.
I quickly identified monkey #3 as most-like my youngest and monkey #4 as most-like my oldest. Read: trouble-maker and curious, and bookish and rule-follower. I am sure every parent in the audience will surmise which monkey is most similar to their children, which is part of the fun. The play opens at the start of what turns out to be, for momma monkey, a very long, trying day. In the beginning, the mischievous monkeys beautifully convey the chaos and mess that ensues when children take on any kind of baking project, in this instance, making a birthday cake for mom (one day early). After successfully destroying the kitchen, starting a fire in the oven, and bringing the fire truck out to the house, the cast then leads us to a picnic in the park.
What could possibly go wrong?
Anyone who has ever taken several young kids to the park themself knows exactly what could go wrong – though without spoiling it – there is a surprise animal appearance during this park outing that particularly delighted my reptile-obsessed
monkey #3 three-year-old. We especially loved that plot twist.
The final outing for the monkey crew is to the store for new clothes. Again, shopping with young kids is not efficient or for the faint of heart, as Leonard repeatedly loses some, or most, of her monkeys that day. I could relate, trust moi. By this point in the play, I began to wonder if they were actually just going to ignore the jumping on the beds premise of the book, but fret not, they saved the very part the kids are familiar with for the show’s conclusion. The actors who so energetically and skillfully portray young children also take on other character roles throughout the show, which is elegantly performed in rhyming prose, including shopkeepers, fire men and of course, the Doctor.
The entire time I sat there, I was in awe of the physical demand of this play on the actors. They must feel like they’ve just participated in a sprint triathlon at the end of each production, frankly I was tired for them. But it’s just this – the highly physical element and comedy of this play – that makes it the ideal show for younger kids especially. Afterall, this book particularly appeals to the youngest monkeys among us, and I love that Adventure Theatre MTC offers such a variety of productions throughout the year that even 2-and-3-year-olds can enjoy the thrill of going to the theatre and come away wanting to go again. Also very noteworthy – the costumes in this production. I loved the bright and cheerful colors of each monkey’s costume but I especially loved the monkey hair on the legs and heads of some of the monkeys – I couldn’t figure out how they made it but it’s fantastic.
5 Little Monkeys is on through June 3. Tickets are $18 each and can be purchased online or by calling 301-634-2270. I’d definitely encourage you all to soak in this play, especially if you have younger monkeys at home. It’s a fun and entertaining hour-long production.
Disclosure: Adventure Theatre MTC invited me and my guests to the final dress rehearsal but my opinions here are my own.