Some things never change. And I’m happy to report, Avenue Q is one of them. After a successful, Tony-winning run on Broadway, the hilarious show featuring foul-mouthed puppets has relocated to the New World Stages, off-Broadway. And in its new venue, the show is as fresh, witty and naughty as ever – perhaps even more so.
Starring Princeton (Seth Rettberg), a wide-eyed puppet who asks the eternally unanswered question, “What do you do with a BA in English?” Avenue Q is the story of a tight-knit group of friends who claim it sucks to be them. Struggling to find their purpose and pay their rent, they experience a variety of adventures and mishaps at their jobs and in their relationships, both human and puppet.
Princeton is longed for by Kate Monster (wittily played by Anika Larsen), but, panicked by the idea of a relationship, he has a fling with Lucy T. Slut (also played by Larsen in an impressive turn). He is joined by his friends Brian (Nicholas Kohn) and his newly-wed, high-strung wife Christmas Eve (a truly hilarious Sala Iwamatsu) and best friends and roommates Nicky and Rod (Cullen R. Titmas and Rettberg, respectively). Trekkie Monster (also played by Titmas) and grown-up child star Gary Coleman (Erica Dorfler) round out the motley crew, each delivering sharp, well-timed performances that elicit more laughs and applause than should be allowed at a show.
The humor of the script, much of which is based off of American television, remains fresh despite the six years that have passed since Avenue Q opened off-Broadway at the Vineyard theater before transferring to a Broadway run at the Golden theater. Some of the show’s original creative crew have worked on Sesame Street, and it is clear which infamous roommates from daytime TV inspired the dynamic of Nicky and Rod’s relationship. And Trekkie Monster, whose song, “The Internet is for Porn” remains one of the show’s highlights, could be a not-so-distant cousin to Cookie Monster.
While a truly hilarious and enjoyable show, the laughter that Avenue Q is a bit bittersweet. Many members of the audience aren’t merely watching the adventures of Princeton and his friends; they are re-living these experiences themselves. Anyone who has arrived in New York, fresh from college and without a trust fund can relate to these characters’ concerns about money, personal and professional fulfillment and the feeling that time is somehow passing by too fast.
This is a common fear shared by so many, whether what is running out is unemployment, health insurance COBRA or the chance to follow the dream that led you to New York to begin with. These fears expressed by the cast of Avenue Q have been or are shared by the majority of its audience every night. While the world is, as Princeton described it, “a big scary place” at least theatergoers know that they’re not alone.