It's always a pleasant surprise when a new avant-garde play proves as disciplined in its staging as it is innovative in content. "Blue Monkey Love Cuts" at Theatre of NOTE is not just a surprise but a revelation.
Creator-director Steve Morgan Haskell found the inspiration for his experimental drama in a Michael Ventura essay. Haskell was struck by a controversial study, cited in the essay, that indicated that monkeys worldwide all began to wash mangoes at the same time, a phenomenon Haskell interpreted as an example of the collective unconscious.
Using this concept as a jumping-off point, Haskell and cast had the play in workshops for four months. Cast members contributed their own stories and experiences to the "collective unconscious" of the piece.
The result is an oblique but wrenching examination of the male-female bond, as seen in the antithetical but strangely symbiotic relationships among the play's various couples, who range from gods to humans to combinations of the two. The infectiously passionate performers vault like ballet dancers through Haskell's surreal landscape, in which music, myth and tall tales blend into an intriguing theatrical hybrid that is part modern-day folklore--and part fever dream from which we are reluctant to awaken.
* "Blue Monkey Love Cuts," Theatre of NOTE, 1517 Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Ends Sept. 7. $10-$12. (213) 856-8811. Running time: 1 hour, 10 minutes.