Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Theater review part deux: Avenue Q at Theatre Three in Dallas
The remarkable cast had more energy than box full of grasshoppers.
Avenue Q (playing in Theatre Too at Theatre Three in Dallas through September 16), an utterly deadpan spoof (or maybe not) of Sesame Street, has to be one of the more curious, sharp-witted, raunchy, subversive musical comedies I have ever seen. It’s cynical, but perky, in songs like “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist.” It’s deprecating, yet earnest (“It Sucks to Be Me”). It’s nonchalant, informative, and gleefully frank. Consider the number when Kate Monster and Princeton are making love while Gary Coleman sings, “You can be as loud as you want, when you’re having sex.” Kate and Princeton are not exactly as naked as puppets could be, but they sure are loud and leave very little to the imagination. I hesitate to use the word “spoof” to describe Avenue Q because, actually, if you think about it, this musical is consistent with the ideology of Sesame Street. It offers honest, practical, casual information about living in the world, in an upbeat, optimistic context. The only difference is, Avenue Q is for adults. When you apply the same principles to adult content, it may not be literal satire, but it sure feels that way.
Avenue Q starts when Princeton, a graduate with an (essentially) useless B.A. in English finds himself on Avenue Q, a low rent district of New York inhabited by fringe dwellers of one kind or another. He meets former child star Gary Coleman, who must deal with the nasty truth that his parents spent all his money, among other problems. Nicky and Rod are roommates and good friends, but Nicky figures Rod might be a lot happier if he came out of the closet. Brian, a stand up comic wannabe, and his Asian fiancée Christmas Eve, share an apartment. They’re crazy for one another, but having trouble realizing their aspirations. Princeton has discovered Kate Monster, very possibly the girl of his dreams, but there are numerous hurdles to clear. Around each corner of Avenue Q, it seems, is another potential life lesson, waiting to be revealed.
Avenue Q has all the accoutrements of Sesame Street, including cartoons and puppet characters. They make no attempt to hide the puppeteers, who reflect the attitude of whatever puppet they happen to be animating at the time. The set has that same feeling of urban brownstones and inner city sprawl. The creators of Avenue Q - Robert Lopez, Jeff Marx (Music and Lyrics) and Jeff Whitty (Book) - have mixed the indefatigable sprightliness of the iconic, breakthrough children’s show with just enough weary, grownup world cynicism to spark maniacal brilliance. There’s something intrinsically perverse and grotesque going on when Christmas Eve reassures Kate Monster that…”The more you ruv someone, the more you want to kill them…” or Gary and Nicky explain in “Schadenfreude” how great it feels to watch somebody else suffer. You feel guilty participating, but the sheer audacity of their divulgence, punctuated by a sunshiny ditty, make it seem impossible not to laugh. You’d be horrified if you heard a three-year old recite, “The Man from Nantucket” but Lopez, Marx and Whitty have figured out a way to cultivate that same enfant terrible dynamic on Avenue Q.
I was wondering how Theatre Three was going to manage a show like Avenue Q in their Black Box, but I’m thrilled to say the intimacy only enhanced this mind-blowing, loopy comedy. The remarkable cast had more energy than box full of grasshoppers, and I have to say, were beyond versatile: clever, raucous, subtle, campy, jazzy, and teeming with heaps of withering wit.
Pegasus News Content partner - Christopher Soden, Dallas GLBT Arts Examiner
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