Stylish set, musical theatre, puppets…PORN! Through the magic of singing and dancing, the Lower Ossington Theatre (LOT), directed by Seanna Kennedy, pulled off a spectacular rendition of Robert Lopez, Jeff Marx and Jeff Whitty's Avenue Q. With a combination of human actors, human puppets, and “monster” puppets, Avenue Q displayed a grown-up version of Sesame Street, where counting numbers was replaced by counting how much debt the characters were all in. From dealing with closet-homosexuality to perpetual stereotypes, the show brought laughter to audience members of all ages (of adults).
Although this is the third year that LOT produced Avenue Q, the actors performed with great zeal! They say that a sign of an amazing puppeteer is one whose presence you lose on stage – in this performance, the puppets’ movements were so fluid and vivacious that I often found myself being unable to take my eyes away and look at the actors! Having grown up on Avenue Q soundtracks, I found it amazing how true and genuine the actors portrayed the original characters’ voices – from similar pitch, to tone, to talking speed, it was as if LOT had embodied the spirit of the original, 2003 show. Specific mention goes out to Chris Vergara, whose elegant finger-work gave Princeton and Rod a life-like flexibility. A worthy mention also goes out to Rebecca Friesen, who blazed through her performance of Kate Monster perfectly, despite a small hiccup (I know it’s not a big deal, but during The Internet is for Porn song she said “wait a minute” instead of “hold on a second” and I just felt betrayed – mind you, I was singing along and dancing to most of the songs. I’m not the most prim and proper theatre-goer).
I love how succinctly LOT maintained the set. With silhouettes of New York on the sides of the room and the Avenue Q and E 9th apartment block set, it was simple enough not to take too much attention away from the actors, while simultaneously complementing the overall loud, uproar that is New York. The TV-set in the top-middle of the stage also made a great tool for interacting with the characters. Hilarity ensued specifically, in a scene of Slut, Lucy the’s operation room. While connected to the heart-rate monitor, the TV displayed a pattern depicting two large breasts! The situation was so perky, I could hardly bare it.
I’m genuinely happy that a politically incorrect piece like Avenue Q can still be appreciated in today’s society. That’s the beauty of the show. From thinking about what to do with “a BA in English," to finding a “purpose,” to establishing the “fine line” between hope and reality, Avenue Q powerfully underlines that life doesn’t need some grand meaning to be fulfilling. Similarly, LOT demonstrated that a show doesn’t need a huge audience to conduct a powerful performance.
Avenue Q runs at Lower Ossington Theatre untul Jan. 10. For more information visit http://lowerossingtontheatre.com/.