Pepe! The Mail Order Monkey Musical The Mountain – at Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church
Remaining performances: Saturday, July 18 at 5:30 pm Wednesday, July 22 at 5:45 pm Friday, July 24 at 10:30 pm Saturday, July 25 at 8 pm
They say: “Broadway-style musical based on an infamous true tale: In the spring of 1968, two young brothers test suburban conventions when they order a live monkey from a comic book. The work is a unique collaboration by artists, composers, theater and film professionals.”
Aaron’s take: Ever wonder what would happen if you took The Stepford Wives and added a shit-flinging mail-order monkey? Strain your imagination no longer — Pepe holds all the answers.
Here’s the gist of it: In the seventh circle of suburbia, where routine is king, the mailman serves as entertainer-in-chief, and stifled housewives take solace in the bottle, two brothers — one rebellious and overmedicated, the other so exaggeratedly nerdy that he appears to have suffered from severe prenatal drug abuse — decide, out of boredom, to order a live monkey advertised in a comic book. Of course, the aforementioned (literal) shit hits the (proverbial) fan when the monkey, named Pepe, bursts in on the boys’ mother’s bridge game and abuses her terrifyingly Stepfordian friends.
But oh, what a monkey he is! Brilliantly acted by Rick Hammerly, Pepe only gets to open his mouth once, and it’s the hands-down highlight of the show. The poor primate finds himself trapped in a delivery box and launches into song, lamenting his constrained existence and the lack of suitable spots for defecation. (Yeah, fecal humor comes up more than once in this show. Deal with it.)
Despite consistently strong performances and rousing music, Pepe is far from polished. There are plenty of opening-night timing kinks to be worked out, and a number of the vocal lines seem to have one syllable too many. Plus, there’s a thoroughly dispensable character listed in the playbill as the “Wisdom Tree” who steals valuable time and attention from an act that’s a bit rushed as it is. (The show’s listed at 60 minutes, but in reality it’s considerably shorter.)
Still, this is Fringe as Fringe should be: rowdy, rough around the edges, and unabashedly peculiar.
See it if: You’ve been needing a Pepe-themed sippy cup. Seriously, they sell them at the door.
Skip it if: You don’t want to get hit in the face with stage-poop. Or just sit at least three rows back.