What a relief. Here's a place where we can laugh about Internet porn, make jokes about racism and cheer for one-night stands. And guaranteed, you will witness the hottest sex scene ever consummated by two onstage puppets.
Don't cluck your tongue, and wipe that scowl off your face. The loopy dudes of "Avenue Q" invite you to loosen your collar for 100 minutes and imagine how marvelous life was when all you needed to worry about was getting a job, falling in love and discovering your purpose. Ah, simpler times.
"Avenue Q" kicks us with a brisk, smiling irreverence, and Mixed Blood's production, which opened over the weekend, responds with a constant sense of fun and charm. Tom Barrett's set is flexible, and the staging lacks the oomph of a tour that came through town three years ago. But it hardly matters.
Princeton, a slacker puppet voiced and manipulated by Tom Reed, ambles onto Avenue Q because he can't find affordable housing on Avenues A through P. Here, far from the center of town, he finds a friendly society out of the mainstream. Kate Monster (Bonni Allen) is a kindergarten teaching assistant, Rod (Seth Tucker) and Nicky (Brian Skellenger) are roommates whose relationship is clearly ambiguous; upstairs the enigmatic Trekkie Monster (Eric Mayson) reminds us what the Internet is good for -- porn.
The humans on Sesame Str ... , oh, I'm sorry, Avenue Q, are former child star Gary Coleman (Brittany Bradford), now the building superintendent, and the fairly normal couple of Brian (Shawn Hamilton) and Christmas Eve (Rose Le Tran). Everyone has the best of intentions -- which are subverted only when the Bad Idea Bears pop up ("It's Long Island ICED TEA! It's sweet; just try one sip"). Schadenfreude has never sounded so gleeful, and snark has never felt so comfortable.
Allen also sizzles as Lucy T. Slut, a human siren whose nightclub act lures Princeton into a moment to remember -- or forget. It's a little racy for younger kids, but for adults, the rough edges have been sanded away with lots of humor.
Director Jack Reuler has said that he's had his eye on "Avenue Q" for a long time. It shows. His production is confident in its ability to amuse and arouse. Only with the driest of winks does the cast ever acknowledge that they are in on the spoof of how children's programming can be used as a slightly profane primer on growing up. Jason Hansen drives a nice little combo and everyone sings as if they're having a great time.
And that's really the beauty of "Avenue Q." There's a deeper lesson here -- to live in the moment and not get hung up on your future -- but the writers understood the best way to make that point was with a dash of satire. All these cats on the avenue get it: Yeah, existence is difficult, so have a few laughs on the way to "Avenue Q."
Graydon Royce • 612-673-7299