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Theater Review: 'Monkey: Journey to the West' -- 2 stars

A scene from "Monkey: Journey to the West."

A scene from "Monkey: Journey to the West." Credit: A scene from "Monkey: Journey to the West."

Monkey: Journey to the West
2 stars

How very disappointing that Lincoln Center Festival, which is renowned for its classically oriented theatrical attractions flown in from around the world, should feature as the centerpiece of its new season a show that doesn’t aspire to much more than the Mandarin-language version of “Spider-Man” or “The Lion King."

“Monkey: Journey to the West” is an intriguing hybrid of circus, fight sequences, percussive and electronic sound, opera, film animation and Buddhism based on a 16th century Chinese folktale.

It was directed by Chen Shi-Zheng and devised by the British band Gorillaz.
The episodic, two-hour piece revolves around a wild-natured monkey and a few other goofball creatures that are picked to assist a monk in his journey from China to India. In addition to English supertitles above the stage, the program contains long scene and character breakdowns.

Despite a fair share of feats, including high-wire flying, tricks with bamboo sticks and animated sequences, “Monkey” is not unlike a clumsy stage adaptation of a comic book or Disney film.

With a tighter framework, better visual coordination and more rehearsal time (a few of the performers were having difficulty with the circus acts at Sunday night’s performance), “Monkey: Journey to the West” could have been a winner.

“Monkey: Journey to the West” plays through July 28 at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center Plaza. 212-721-6500,

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