I first saw Avenue Q, on Broadway in the summer of 2005, I thought it was a perfect
show. I also thought it was too of its moment to last. Avenue
is a topical piece, and I assumed that it, likemost things topical, had a sell-by date.
here we are in 2009, and at 6 years old, Avenue Q hits twice
as hard as it ever did. It is more relevant, funnier, and more necessary.
It is about a bunch of 20- and early-30-somethings resisting assimilation
into a market economy that ever seeks to de-bone, de-soul, and de-grade
them. Throughout their struggles, Avenue's denizens receive
advice from their building's sage-like superintendent, Gary Coleman (usually played by a woman, and not necessarily a short one) and sing
songs with titles like "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist" and "The Internet Is for Porn." And as has been widely reported, most of Avenue's
denizens are puppets: drinking, swearing, fucking, anatomically correct
puppets who turn Avenue Q into a bittersweet elegy to the shattered
expectations of Gen-X and Yers who were taught by Sesame Street
to dream bigger than the world was willing to accommodate.
traveling crew that's wound up at The Broward Center is just as good
as 2005's Broadway cast, but I don't want to review their work.
There are so many actors playing so many characters on various nights
that you probably won't see the same people I did (though if you do,
I promise you'll walk away impressed). Avenue's only technical
problem is the venue itself: The Broward Center, so perfect for opera
or orchestral music, turns into a hideous, booming echo-chamber every
time someone plugs in a PA. At five or six especially loud moments throughout
the show, the instrumentation coheses into a thick sonic sludge that
sounds nothing like music. Don't blame the show: blame the ceilings.
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like to recommend Avenue Q for reasons that have nothing to do
with this particular cast or production. I'd like to recommend it
because, in all probability, you need a reason to feel good this month.
And almost every song in Avenue Q
has a way of boring, drill like, directly to the black center of some
icky issue that tortures the modern American psyche -- especially the
psyches of Americans between the ages of, say, 20 and 35.
of all is "For Now," which serves as a helluva finale for Act II. It is
a paean to compromise. The world is one callous bitch, it says,
and your dreams may very well not come true. But hey -- you've got
friends, right? You're not starving, are you? Who cares if
you've got no money, and if your best bet is to trade in that longed-for
career as a standup comic or a novelist for a few years temping for
horrible insurance agencies? Whoever promised that life would be anything
more? And what the hell is happiness, anyway? Isn't it provisional?
If complicated life forms can exist inside superheated volcanic vents
hundreds of miles beneath the ocean, can't contentment exist in a
run-down apartment bloc on Avenue Q? For now, at least?
seems to me that these questions are more worth asking at this moment
than at any moment in recent memory. Struggling to find the romance
and nobility in lowered expectations may be the great psychic job of
this over-ambitious and under-worked generation. Avenue Q
-- Brandon K. Thorp
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