Time to Remember
Bawdy , irreverent, surprisingly wise and heartfelt, and ...felt, Kaleidoscope Theatres' 45th Season premiere show Avenue Q is a gem in an increasingly jeweled crown of work.Existing in the same sunny universe
filled with puppets as Sesame Street reside, the denizens of Avenue Q struggle with early adulthood and the travails of the making it in the real world. Princeton has just graduated college and is searching for purpose , meaning, a job (with no job experience but a shiny new diploma) and a place to live. He stumbles upon Avenue Q which is inhabited with an assortment of friendly monsters, a bad comedian and his wink-wink-nudge-nudge Japanese girlfriend, an uptight closeted investment banker and his slacker roommate, and presided over by building superintendent Gary Coleman. Yes, you heard me right, GARY COLEMAN, of Different Strokes , "What-you-talkin'-about-Willis" fame.
With a few exceptions, the characters are all puppets (some played by two people, with one controlling the head and left arm and the assistant controlling the right0. The mere fact that this is most likely the first time most of the performers have puppeteered adds to the wow factor of this polished performance. Directors Jason Blanks and Doug Gilliland guide the show with assured hands, keeping the pacing brisk and with a keen eye for the absurdity of his salty puppets while keeping the heartfelt message grounded in reality. Like it's public television forebear, Avenue Q is educational with a message of acceptance. The fact that it addresses salacious truths with singing puppets (sample songs: "Everyones a little bit racist", "The internet is for porn") makes the messages more subversive.
The cast does a remarkable job at bringing the characters to life. One of the unique aspects of the show is that the performers are in full view with puppet in hand(s) and sometimes it is hard to decide which to focus on- puppet or performer. Garret Poladian (Princeton) shines in an exuberant performance, giving his all and perfectly mimicing his puppets physicality and emotions. Danielle Walsh plays his love interest Kate Monster, wringing poignancy from her lovely songs. Jason Betz as one of the few human characters, plays Brian- the ironically Fozzie Bear- like comedian with comic brio (his goofy song and dance "I'm not wearing underwear today" elicited belly laughs from his liquid hip moves.) Kathy Tinder Lindsey plays his Japanese Fiancée Christmas Eve with a knowing wink at her undeniable Caucasian-ness.Mckenzie Richards plays the closeted Rod with a sweetness that is endearing, Matthew Bonnin as his accepting roommate , playing up his very Ernie-ness (you know, Bert and Ernie) with innocence and heart. Jada Calo is a true find as Gary Coleman- spunky, saucy, and funny. The supporting characters all get their moments to shine as well-Isaac Eiland Hall as the surly porn obsessed Trekkie monster, Anthony Powiliatis and Elizabeth Pate as the accurately named Bad Idea Bears, and Olivia Van Kley as the temptress Lucy the slut.
Crude language and adult themes plus full on puppet sex (I'm not joking) make this show appropriate for adult audiences, so if you are easily offended, maybe you should just watch public television. But if you can open your eyes, your ears, your hearts and your minds to the lovelyand meaningful sentiments conveyed in this raucous comedy, then you should make the trek to Avenue Q. It's a nice place to visit.
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