The Greatest Monkey Show on Earth presented by Antic in a Drain (as Artist in Residence at Kinetic Arts Center) will make you laugh at times and really uncomfortable the rest. Maitresse Magnificent (Amelia Van Brunt) introduces the audience to Charles the Chimp (Ross Travis). He’s a good little monkey that’s expected to perform on cue for treats. If he’s not on point he’s stunned via a shock collar.
The bouffon comedy has the audience laughing with sexual innuendos and skits of mischievousness that involve the audience. Maitresse Magnificent flirts and teases the men and sometimes cops a feel. She drinks in between sets from bottles hidden on stage and at one-point slips Charles some tongue. Charles the Chimp awes the audience with his acrobatic skills ranging from back flips and hoop jumping to performing on a Chinese pole.
The tables are flipped when he brings an audience member on stage to serve him a meal. He’s now the ringleader and challenged with training the human. Whenever the audience member, now servant, does something wrong he screams and makes him start over after showing him the correct action he’s suppose to take. The person chosen played along well but couldn’t hide his tinge of nervousness of trying to do it right the first time. He never did.
The show builds slowly and exemplifies the evil that comes with one-sided power. Maitresse Magnificent becomes agitated throughout the show and gets more and more abusive towards Charles. Charles is not allowed to make one tiny error or decision. He can’t take a moment to play with his favorite toy or accidently get stuck in his pajamas or her anger comes out with a vengeance. The audience is just as trapped as him watching this build, leading to an inevitable reverse of power. Charles being childlike is left alone not understanding the finality of what he does in the end. He performs a trick on his tricycle longing for a reaction (and treat) he will not receive.
Travis embodies his character to the point where it’s hard to wonder what the man behind the mask is like. The rapport between him and Amelia Van Brunt provides for good comedic timing especially during moments of improv. However, it would’ve been nice if Brunt had a microphone as she was inaudible during many of the non-screaming moments.
Due to the graphic violence this show is not recommended for children. We would also not recommend it for people who suffer from anxiety or claustrophobia. The space is small and the plays theme may have you grasping for air.
The show is playing at the Kinetic Arts Center located at 785 7th Street, Oakland, CA 94607. Doors open at 7:30 and seats are general admission. Tickets are $20 online at http://monkeyshow.bpt.me.