Growing up furry on Avenue Q | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

Growing up furry on Avenue Q 

Aimless college grads still need their own Sesame Street.

click to enlarge avenue_q-1.jpg

Brett Beiner

This clever 2003 Broadway hit by songwriters Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez and playwright Jeff Whitty, now in a breezy, intimate staging by director L. Walter Stearns at Mercury Theater, is the story of Princeton, a 23-year-old college grad with no job, no girlfriend, and no sense of purpose. After moving to Avenue Q, a fictional slum on Manhattan's Lower East Side, Princeton meets plucky but lonely Kate Monster, a kindergarten teaching assistant with dreams of opening a school for monsters like herself—or "people of fur," in her words. Princeton's other neighbors include failed stand-up comic Brian and his partner Christmas Eve, a therapist with no clients; former child celebrity Gary Coleman; growly-voiced Internet porn addict Trekkie Monster; and bickering roommates Rod, a closeted gay Republican investment banker, and Nicky (a twist on Sesame Street 's bickering Bert and Ernie).

With perky songs, video sequences, and Muppet-style puppets portraying most of the characters, this Sesame Street spoof illustrates such grown-up life lessons as "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist," "You Can Be as Loud as the Hell You Want (When You're Makin' Love)," and "There's a Fine, Fine Line" between friendship and romance—as noted in the aching, plaintive ballad of the same title, beautifully sung by Leah Morrow as Kate Monster.

Having the cast visibly manipulate the puppets (designed by Russ Walko) is an ingenious device, with the actors representing the characters while the puppets portray everyone's hopeful, anxious "inner child."   v

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