Monkey see, monkey do — and then some — is the leitmotif of Theatre for Young America’s Curious George, Douglas Marr’s adaptation of the H.A. and Margaret Rey books. Under Missy Koonce’s playful direction, a comically gifted cast brings a purposeful cartoon sensibility to the picturesque yet flat children’s stories.
Ry Kincaid is the titular simian, and costumer Valerie Mackey shrouds him in brown from head to toe while he frolics without uttering a human sound. His biped friends include the Man with the Yellow Hat (Charles Fugate), Billy the Paper Boy (Jake Walker) and Betsy (Jessalyn Kincaid), whom he meets in the hospital after eating a puzzle piece. They’re fond of George without going overboard about it, but at the same time they find his indefatigable curiosity an annoyance. Just when they think he’s reined in, he spots something else and off he goes.
Like other theatrical adaptations of books that come in series, the story at the beginning is not the story at the end; the episodic incidents are related only by George’s involvement in them. The play opens with the delivery of two gifts: a bicycle and a jigsaw puzzle. After eating one of the pieces, George is whisked to the hospital, where he’s attended by Dr. Baker and Nurse Nancy, both played by Phil Fiorini in a silly but effective bit of stunt casting.
What happens next neither builds on earlier scenes nor necessarily detracts from them. George gets lost among the dinosaurs in a museum, and then he’s shot into space, a project led by a scientist named Wiseman (also played by Fiorini, in a Don King wig). George is anointed a hero, and everyone walks off arm-in-arm. At the curtain, there’s another chorus or two of a rock and roll oldie — several of them play throughout the show in recordings made by children. The songs, too, are fairly coincidental, except for “Return to Sender,” which comes on after the opening mail delivery (in a scene that has Fugate exclaiming, “What a big package!”).
Despite Kincaid’s game attempt to play a monkey, though, he never really gets the walk down, and his vocalizations could be those of anything on Animal Planet. Fiorini steals the show anyway, breaking into distinct accents and genders with the greatest of ease.