Boxtales Theatre Co., Santa Barbara’s small, innovative and bravely low-budget stage troupe, had another charmer in its newest production, Prince Rama and the Monkey King.

The three-man group staged its newest show twice on Saturday in the auditorium of La Colina Junior High School. The second, evening show was attended by a few willing adults and a delighted gaggle of young children, Boxtales’ target audience.

Prince Rama and the Monkey King is billed as “an intimate retelling of the Ramayana” and featured wonderful masks, head-dresses and props for the three actors: Michael Loring Andrews, Matthew Tavianini and Bryan West. Each of the gentlemen wore basic black pullovers and trousers, and changed their accessories along with their voices, for the multiple characters of the story.

Andrews took the bare stage before the performance to greet the audience. He then demonstrated the sensitivity that makes Boxtales an ideal experience for kids. He asked the audience, “Do you get scared?” and a mighty roar came back, “No!” Then he asked if they liked to get scared, and the answer was an emphatic “yes.” He held up one of the masks used in the show, the face of a ferocious demon. “Are you scared of this?” The kids howled, not with fear but with delight — and the show was on.

Prince Rama and the Monkey King recounts how the noble Rama and his ally, the mischievous Monkey King, seek to free the beautiful Sita, Rama’s wife, from the clutches of the demon King Ravana. It should be noted that Sita was present in the form of a lovely, almost-life-sized puppet in an alluring red sari.

The members of Boxtales are all expert actors, skilled in dance, mime, drumming and acrobatics. While performing multiple roles, each actor also took one of the three leads: West as Prince Rama, Tavianini as the Monkey King and Andrews as King Ravana.

West and Tavianini are both products of UCSB, and Tavianini also has a master of fine arts degree from Florida State University’s Asolo Conservatory. Andrews, one of the founders of Boxtales, studied percussion with drummers including Babatunde Olatunji, as well as movement theater and clowning in Guanajuato, Mexico.

In addition to these wildly overqualified performers, this Boxtales show features original puppets, including Sita, created by Laura Denny and Gundrun Bortman. Special mention must go to Timo Beckwith, who created the elaborate masks. Musical recordings were furnished by Montino Bourbon, and the stylized green-fronded backdrop was the work of Matthew MacAvene.

After the show, the three performers came back on stage, sat at the footlights and invited questions for the audience. One very young audience member wanted to know how the Monkey King’s tail worked, and Tavianini obligingly got it from backstage, showed the belt that held the impressive tail on and waggled it up and down.

It is this connection with the children in the audience that distinguishes the Boxtales repertory. The characters are alive on stage, and then the talented performers deconstruct them for their young viewers.

It’s a win-win situation — for everybody but the evil King Ravana, anyway.

— Margo Kline covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor.