Block Party on Avenue Q
A porn-addicted monster, a closet-gay puppet, and a Japanese woman named Christmas Eve were some of the stars in the Performing Arts Office’s (PAO) Avenue Q. The renowned Broadway production is well known for its raunchy twist on childhood-favorite The Muppets. Suffolk University’s PAO found a hidden jewel in this script as their performances had audiences laughing one moment and awing in the next.
Princeton, a recent graduate who thinks his B.A. in English is not getting him far in the real world. His search for a place to live brings him down Avenue Q where Gary Coleman (not kidding) offers him an apartment. There he meets Brian and his fiancé Christmas Eve, secretly-gay Rod who lives with his straight best fried Nicky, shut-in Trekkie Monster, and the adorable Kate Monster.
As the grandeur of life after college fades from Princeton’s view he begins to seek out his purpose in life while the other Avenue Q occupants struggle with their own endeavors. By the end, the unique characters come to the conclusion that while some never find their purpose, everything is only for a while. The ambiguous final song allows the audience to take away their own meaning, whether it is good or bad. The overall up and down of the plot is well done with vulgar comedy offsetting more serious subject matter. If the second act had lived up to the first, the production would have been perfect.
Avenue Q’s ability to relate to college students is its most surprising aspect. Princeton is the model graduate: sure of himself, still bright-eyed from the wonders of campus life, and overall optimistic. However a stunted economy keeps him from obtaining a job at all, never mind one in his field. Mixed in are social issues of difficulties in immigration and the hardships involved with sexual orientation. These intriguing points give the audience a chance to become involved in the play on a more thought-provoking level.
Of course play also relies on its actors, not necessarily its meaning. Avenue Q is unique in the fact that the majority of its characters are puppets. The PAO performers therefore had to learn to correspond their own motions to those of their furry counterparts, which they more than pulled off. The voices of leads Princeton and Kate (played by Suffolk’s Dan Lampariello and Jillian Couillard) are in perfect harmony not only with their puppets but also with each other.
The favorite character of the play however is Rodney, masterfully matched by actor Joey Graham. Rodney’s struggle to come to terms with his sexuality has heartbreaking moments that keep the audience rooting for him until the curtains close. As the flamboyant puppet flaunts his wit to the audience, Graham prances around the stage with the same personality. While in front of the crowd the two are cheered and when off stage they are missed.
The set list Avenue Q boasts enhances the quirky characters like no other musical. “If You Were Gay,” “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist,” “The Internet is for Porn,” and “You Can Be as Loud as the Hell You Want (When You’re Making Love)” are just a few selections that keep the audience somewhere between awkward giggles and side-aching outbursts. In fact, the entire play keeps the audience on their toes as the production crosses as many lines as possible (including an intense puppet love scene) over the course of two hours. Not for the conservative audience, Avenue Q will leave you second-guessing your own morality.
While the actors were given their roles, the production team had their work cut out for them. The stage itself needed to fit several interior scenes, a large exterior one, and room for a slightly visible band. The well-crafted urban set depicts a Muppet show gone wrong with dull, brick-colored buildings offset by bright curtains for offstage interjections. One apartment stoop hosted entrances and conversations while another was cleverly used to roll apartment walls onstage for the more personal scenes. Overall the sets gave the play a downtrodden tone of an urban lifestyle mixed with the peculiar characters that come across in such places.
The PAO’s production of Avenue Q is a testament to the company’s devotion to the enjoyment of their audience. The casts’ efforts towards becoming performing puppeteers are clearly seen throughout the play. A clever choice for a script and the ability to make is their own proves the PAO is an organization to watch. After seeing this production the audience is no doubt marking the next PAO event on their calendars.