The world needs more "Avenue Q," and right now, Theatre Three (in their smaller venue Theatre Too) is offering up a deliciously deadly dose.
If you’re not familiar with the show, it incorporates puppets in a kind of adults only, "Sesame Street"-esque style. The story line follows Princeton, who has just graduated from college and is trying to make his way in the world. He moves to Avenue Q because it’s cheap. There he makes friends, loses his job before he even starts it, falls in love and experiences most everything else that a 20-something does at that point in his or her life.
But "Avenue Q" does it all in the most hilarious, honest and non-PC way you can imagine. It tells the truth and it doesn’t worry about offending anyone. Instead, it offends everyone. The book and the lyrics are equal parts poignant and hilarious and if you can’t laugh at this show, you need a reality check.
If you’re wondering just how un-PC things get, the song titles will give you an excellent idea. "Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist," "Schadenfreude" and "The More You Ruv Someone" are just a few of the zingers "Avenue Q" presents. And the latter is song by Christmas Eve, a Japanese character. Uh huh.
The show talks about the purpose of the Internet -- porn. How many people are doing in terms of finding the purpose in their lives -- poorly. And the purpose of many college degrees -- nothing. It even utilizes little cartoons a la "Electric Company" to explain just what purpose means. It’s all a hoot. It’s all true. And it’s all at least a teeny bit shocking to see played out onstage with puppets, particularly when those puppets are having sex (and really going at it I might add) onstage. You won’t believe your eyes.
Theatre Three has put together a fantastic production of the show that will not disappoint. It’s not an easy piece to wrangle, considering the technical aspects from sound to puppetry that must be addressed. But they knock it out of the park and are knocking audiences off their feet.
This production is directed by Michael Serrecchia and stars Megan Kelly Bates as Kate/Lucy, James Chandler as Nicky/Swing, Olivia de Guzman Emile as Christmas Eve, M. Denise Lee as Gary Coleman, Chester Maple as Brian, Matt Purvis as Princeton/Rod and Michael Robinson as Trekkie/Swing, and Ensemble. Although the night I saw it, Denise Lee’s daughter Traci Lee played the role of Gary Coleman. Yes, you read that right, Gary Coleman. He plays the super of the apartments at Avenue Q. Oh how the mighty have fallen.
As you can tell from the cast list, several actors play more than one role and the roles they play are not small ones. Bates and Purvis are the male and female leads, respectively and they manage to kill it on all counts. All of the cast members set to the task of controlling one puppet while doing the voice of another and switching back and forth do it with aplomb. But what impressed me the most were the facial expressions on the actors that, somehow, your brain transfers to the puppets.
You’re looking at a puppet who can really only open and close its mouth. But when you see the actor smile or grimace or frown, you would swear the puppet is making the same face. There is a undeniable flow to the show that kept the audience rapt. It didn’t hurt that the tiny venue allowed for the cast members to interact with the audience, which they did, hugging and humping and all.
When it comes to facial expressions, Chandler was a standout, as was Bates. And Robinson made the furry, mildly creepy Trekkie as lovable as a porn-loving monster can be. Purvis was sweet and smart and impressively flexible in playing both Princeton and Rod. But the whole cast really deserves three cheers for making the seemingly silly into nothing short of wonderful.
The production team includes, musical direction by Terry Dobson; set design by Jac Alder; lighting & sound design by Scott Guenther; costume design by Michael Robinson; and puppet design and creation by Dallas Puppet Theater’s Michael Robinson and Pix Smith. This is one of those show where the production team plays as integral a role as the actors, and this team is stellar.
See this show. You’ll laugh yourself sick and you’ll let out a sigh of relief too. It’s a "throw no punches" kind of night. And I don’t know anyone who couldn’t use a hilariously swift kick of reality once in awhile.