LA Review: 'Avenue Q'

3-D Theatricals at Plummer Auditorium

Reviewed by Eric Marchese

July 14, 2012


Photo by Isaac James Creative
No aspect of "Sesame Street" escapes being satirized and ridiculed by the Tony-winning Broadway musical "Avenue Q": not the artificial wholesomeness of the characters, not their innocence about real life, not their penchant for creating songs meant as lessons for young viewers. Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx dreamed up the show, and their songs and Jeff Whitty's book take no prisoners in their merciless mocking of the folks who live on Avenue Q. The show's many puppet characters, conceived and designed by Rick Lyon, are the crowning touch, creating a world that's a darkly funny mirror image of the hit TV series. Directors T.J. Dawson and C.J. Porter's staging has all the lively energy and humor of the New York and touring versions, and Dawson's choreography re-creates Ken Roberson's original dance steps. Other elements evoking the initial production include Lopez's "Sesame Street"–like animations and a scenic design by Anna Louizos, who worked on the Las Vegas and first national tour editions.

Dawson's cast captures the deliberately contrived buoyancy of the show's characters. Those performers who are also puppeteers prove highly talented at that particular skill, their singing and acting abilities contributing to the illusion that the puppets are real. Louis Pardo and Caitlin Humphreys get at the delicate core of the budding, often troubled romance between Princeton, a recent college grad trying to find his "purpose" in life, and Kate Monster, a kindergarten teacher's assistant who dreams of one day opening her own "school for monsters." The actors expertly tap the humor and poignancy of their roles, and their wild, frantic sex scene, which features "full puppet nudity," is a masterpiece of down-and-dirty comedy. Humphreys' exceptional talents are plainly in view in her two contrasting characterizations: the goodhearted, girlish Kate and the sultry, skanky nightclub singer Lucy the Slut, the latter generating some of the evening's most sexy-nasty moments.

Pardo is also adept at essaying two distinct characters, the second being Rod, a Republican investment banker who looks and sounds like Bert on "Sesame Street" and is obviously attracted to guys yet denies being gay. His roommate, Nicky, is given full Ernie characterization by Nathan Danforth, including the distinctive voice and speech patterns that also closely follow—and mock—those of Kermit the Frog. Danforth wrings maximum laughs from his grumpy, horny, monosyllabic Trekkie Monster, who shuts himself away in his apartment surfing the Net for porn. Danforth and Teya Patt's rendering of the Bad Idea Bears rounds out the show's first-rate puppet cast, boosted by director of puppetry Christian Anderson.

The three human roles are in the same wacky vein. Camille Chen's shrewish, stereotypically Japanese Christmas Eve evokes big laughs, complemented by the work of Porter as her cheerful standup-comic fiancé, Brian. Angela Wildflower Polk's hyper-cheerful Gary Coleman mocks that actor's child-star success on TV and his struggles as an adult.

3-D Theatricals is to be congratulated for a screamingly funny account of this comically inspired show in its California regional premiere.

Presented by 3-D Theatricals at Plummer Auditorium, 201 E. Chapman Ave., Fullerton. July 13–29. Thu.–Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. (Additional performances Sun., July 22, 7 p.m.; Sat., July 28, 2 p.m.) (714) 589-2770 or www.3dtshows.com.
 

 
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