Hip Shot: ‘Pepe! The Mail Order Monkey Musical’

PepePR copyPepe! 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.

  • Spencer

    Rick Hammerly was astoundingly perfect from the momemt the lights went on till that too-soon moment he left the stage. That look of sustained terror was endearing and funny. Mom did a great job, but wasn't served well by the plodding, meandering lyrics. And I could have used a break from the relentless rhyming, but otherwise the music was fine. The boys came into their own during the Pepe search, and yes, Tim did seem borderline retarded, but that's OK. The tree was worthless. Seeing opening credits projected on stage seemed a bit self-congratulatory. A very fringey show - rough, in need of a major overhaul, but with genuinely funny moments and enough fun to leave with a smile.

  • John Q.

    So I believed all they hype and went and saw a sold out show and I gotta tell ya, the review above it too kind. Way too kind. Moral of my story: "sold out" does not equal "good". The monkey guy was great, though. Too bad he's only on stage for five minutes!

  • Mark

    "Pepe! The Mail Order Monkey Musical" is the hottest-selling musical in the festival. The only show with tickets remaining is Friday evening -- and it featured Bravo TV's Top Chef, Carla Hall, in the role of the letter carrier.

    See why this show has sold out every performance -- in the Fringe's largest venue.

  • Jimmy

    I agree with Suzyn's criticisms above. But I'll add more - Took WAY too long to get to the monkey, the younger boy seemed to be played as retarded, The mundane melodies and the ham fisted freedom theme, after the monkey appears it slows to a grinding halt. I was expecting something - well- a little more "fringe-y". I can't emphasize enough how dull the music was, while the lyrics were quite clever and the acting was pretty good.

  • Suzyn Smith Webb

    I saw it and liked it, though I didn't get why the Bridge women were so snotty if they helped look for the monkey. And I didn't get the tree either.

    That aside, it was fun and I agree it was one of the more polished shows I've seen.

  • Jon

    Pepe is SOLD OUT for both Saturday performances. Tickets are available for the Fri., July show featuring CARLA HALL from Top Chef.

    So far, Pepe is the leader in ticket sales for the whole festival! Thanks, DC!

  • Jeff

    I saw it last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. Genuinely funny.

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  • Mark

    I saw the show last night and loved it. Despite the timing issues, I felt the show was polished more so than most pieces I have seen so far this festival. Some amazing performances from the Mother and Kids. I highly recommend grabbing a ticket sooner than later -- the box office told me the show is the top selling ticket.