It Sucks To Be You…

…but not when we’re together here on Avenue Q.

Alas, dear readers, we have arrived at the penultimate theater review (from me anyway). After this point my theater class is seeing one more show and then it’s curtains permanently on these reviews… it was fun while it lasted.

But let’s not be too sad, as this year’s review is about the ever-entertaining show Avenue Q. My theater class saw it this past Wednesday — I was absent — so I present you with a review of the December 30, 2009 performance of Avenue Q.

Before Gary Coleman died…

… we still had a play called Avenue Q. It was a Broadway hit for many years before moving to its new Off-Broadway home at New World Stages. Gary Coleman (the actor) was unhappy with his portrayal in the show (as superintendant of the eponymous block where the main characters live) and threatened to sue, but ultimately did not.

Good thing too, because at one point during the show Gary Coleman (the character) stole a purse from a friend and paraded around with it onstage while the rest of the cast tried to shake down the audience. If you have not realized by then how wacky and fun this show is, something’s wrong.

On December 30, 2009, I waited several hours in the biting cold to get front row seats to a show described as “breakthrough”, “ingenious”, and “Sesame Street for grown-ups”. And they were definitely worth it – a show like this simply does not leave your head. It stays with you forever. And although there are plenty of amazing shows out there, this is one of the best. Maybe the front row is not the best place to view it, as the stage itself will block the view of anything happening near the floor – but if you catch the eye of one of the cast, you might just become part of the action.

The acting in the show is absolutely phenomenal. It takes a lot of training for an actor to be able to speak for and move a puppet around at the same time – especially the larger ones, like Trekkie Monster, the porn-loving parody of Cookie Monster, that require two operators. Even for a “normal” actor, staying in character is difficult – but some of the puppeteers play more than one character, and sometimes those characters are onstage at the same time, resulting in one person voicing the puppet and someone else moving it – Kate Monster and Lucy the Slut come to mind, as both are played by the same actress. Compare it to playing an instrument and singing at the same time – they both require talent, effort, and practice to achieve. It is very clear that the cast have spent a lot of time perfecting everything that they do during the show.

Of course, this brilliant acting is what preempts the audience’s suspension of disbelief – puppets representing monsters, puppets representing humans, and actual humans interact freely with each other with no care as to whether the other people are puppets or people. They will shamelessly involve the audience at certain points – once during “The Internet Is For Porn,” Trekkie will look at a (probably male) patron after Kate assures that normal people do not search for porn on the internet. (Of course, that person will be subject to endless mocking afterwards – one of my friends is still known as Trekkie Monster because of this!)

But despite all of the hijinks, there is still an underlying message throughout. You can enter the real world completely well-intentioned, but a few turns of events can really land you in the dumps for no good reason. Maybe you had a few too many drinks. Maybe someone started meddling. Maybe you have a quirk that no one else likes. Avenue Q tries to tell you that these things aren’t necessarily okay, but no matter what happens, you have to pick yourself up and move on. After all, everything is only “For Now.” Things can be fixed and made better, and other bad things will go away eventually – even the good things will disappear, but you have to pick yourself up and move on. The humor in the show might belie this more serious message, but in the end, this is what the show is about.

Some things to note —

Gary Coleman stole my friend’s purse from the front row. This past Wednesday’s performance had Princeton steal a bag from the mezzanine level… I’m assuming they change that up every show.

The “George Bush” line: Before George Bush was term-limited out of office, the final song “For Now” had a line that said something to the effect of “George Bush is only for now”. Sometime before my show they replaced it with “Fox News” as Fox News was not in the Obama administration’s good graces at the time… they also said it at the Wednesday performance, so I’m assuming they haven’t changed it, but if they do switch it up every now and then let me know.

Find Avenue Q at the New World Stages — Stage 3, C E trains to 50th St (exit at 50th St southwest corner), then walk west a half block — theater is on your left, and is underground.

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