Lamb Arts Regional Theatre:
We Are Monsters
Sioux City, Iowa
January 25, 2020
January 26 & 31, February 1 & 2
Holy Vegetarian Vampires, Batman! Lamb Arts Regional Theatre has been taken over by a large group of very talented young monsters—and a handful of humans, too. These young singer/actors—also known as members of the Young People’s Theatre at Lamb—are putting on Denver Cadado and Betina Hershey’s We Are Monsters. Never heard of it? Don’t worry. The spirit of the play and its songs will linger well after you leave the theatre.
We Are Monsters, under the direction of Diana Wooley, bears witness to a monster cabaret hidden in the woods. In pursuit are five (gasp!) humans. The dreaded humans don’t merely pose a threat to the peace and privacy these monsters enjoy in the forest; human eating habits (and high blood sugar) have also wrecked the blood supply forcing these unfortunate vampires to turn to (gasp again!) lettuce.
There’s a little bit of a long-lost-friendship plot woven through the performance of the cabaret. The human, KC, pines after the friend-that-was, the monster Oozy Lumpa. KC, played by Drew Hanson, and Oozy, portrayed by an earnest Cora Swan, each have songs lamenting these long-losts. Aside from the rare focus on these individual characters, the monsters and humans both find safety in numbers. It’s a matter of practical survival for the characters, yes, but it’s also smart stagecraft. Almost all of the musical numbers are performed by large or small ensembles, which give strength and power to the young voices. The songs really pop with volume and energy. This is not one of those youth musicals where you grit your teeth and smile and nod.
We-can’t-do-it-alone also becomes one of the messages of the play. KC and Oozy want their friends back. The monsters want to be understood. In the title song, “We Are Monsters,” these outcastssing, “We are monsters, but we want to be more.” It seems to me the playwrights know plenty well the difference between not enough, more, and too much. There is a moral to the play: the others aren’t actually other. It’s something we talked about with our boys as we drove them home. But this 50-minute production knows that the point of a play is entertainment, and Monsters provides it in spades. After all, families—unlike vampires—don’t go to the theatre to eat their moral vegetables. They go to have fun. And fun we all had, with maybe a dash of steamed kale moralism on the side.
In the end, if you’ve got little ones, bring them to Lamb for one of the remaining performances. Keep an open mind: This play, which I’d never heard of before, pleased our family more than some pop culture favorites from the Disney vault. Coming in at less than an hour, it’s not a big ask, even for the youngest and newest theatre-goer.
Brendan Todt is a stay-at-home father with some knowledge of monsters. He must now count these new monsters among his other favorites: Beast, Shrek, James P. Sullvan, Macbeth, and his two sons.