My second 20at20 foray came Monday night with Avenue Q at New World Stages. My deal-loving friend and I managed to find the one show on the one night we both could attend. I got there early to snag a spot in line while she picked up dinner from Panera (her new favorite place). As I slurped my chicken noodle soup, the people behind us compared different productions they had seen of Avenue Q, where, and how many times. My friend and I just decided to come because there were puppets involved, so we didn’t really know what we were getting into.
One thing I love about New World Stages: you can enjoy your drink IN the theater.
This kind of ensemble requires total team players to pull off the rotating of puppets and coordinating the puppets’ and actors’ body language. The actors worked wonderfully with their puppets, their bodies becoming an extension of their handheld friends. Further, actors embraced multiple puppets and therefore, roles. Darren Bluestone jauntily navigated the dual roles of lead character Princeton and supporting character Rod with his perky sidekick Veronica Kuehn playing a pert Kate and vamped-up Lucy.
I am always amazed by the physicality of puppetry. When I think of puppets, I simply think of the puppet. I don’t immediately take into account, the actor breathing life into the puppet. The physicality of actors is amazing, but the bits of actual dance movement is so basic, it is kind of a joke. The Avenue Q puppets aren’t full-bodied puppets but that doesn’t stop them from exploring all the aspects of life from drinking Long Island Iced Teas to engaging in graphic sexual exploits.
The storyline is one many New Yorkers can embrace: finding one’s purpose in coming to the city full of dreams and navigating the obstacles of apartment, job, and friend-hunting. Ave Q embraces the inconsistencies of society, especially with the “We’re all a little racist” number. The opening segue into “Finding Purpose” is a bit Sesame Street, but quickly shifts gears. Puppets also explore their sexuality, which in the puppet world “coming out” seems rather simple and almost trite. When Kate is out of sorts about her relationship with the erstwhile Princeton, Christmas Eve – the stereotype female Asian human character helps her realize her main struggle: “there is a fine line between love and wasting your time.” Amen, sister.