By Hays Blinckmann
Avenue Q at the Waterfront Playhouse
Have you ever done a drug? A prescribed pain med? Hell, maybe just too much coffee, and the moment hits when an altered reality kicks in and your brain says, “Okay, I’m gonna roll with this, see where it takes me, let’s go.” That’s Avenue Q now playing at the Waterfront Playhouse through March 25, a puppet- and actor-filled adult musical comedy, that takes everything about theater, plot, music and modern day angst and tosses it like a salad at Willy Wonka’s house.
Winner of three Tony awards for Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book, with music and lyrics by Jeff Marx & Robert Lopez and book by Jeff Whitty, Avenue Q has become one of the longest-running shows in Broadway history. With good reason,. It’s witty, sassy, funny and has just enough total preposterousness. Director Danny Weathers, Musical Director Michael Fauss and Choreographer Penny Leto have done an exemplary job at assembling actors who not only dazzle with vocals and timing, but master puppetry as well. Michael Boyer’s set design couldn’t provide a better example of creating first-rate theater in Key West.
Warning: the puppets take a minute to get used to because the actors/puppeteers are right there on stage working together. But that’s the crux of the whole show, deconstruction: from upending memories about Sesame Street (seeing the puppeteer), to laughing at youthful post-collegiate hope — a puppet named “Princeton” trying to find his purpose — mocking political correctness with a song titled “Isn’t Everyone a Little BBit Racist?”, humanizing monsters, the trials of love both gay and straight, even to “schadenfreude” — pleasure at other’s misfortune. But the play provides millennial kitsch like the Bad Idea Bears urging characters to drink and have sex (think peer pressuring Care Bear knock-offs) and Gary Coleman — yes the childhood actor is an actual character. And at some point there is an offbeat Greek chorus made out of singing cardboard boxes, a little weird, but oddly, it all makes sense.
Avenue Q masters being bizarre, funny and wonderful at the same time. With impeccable acting, direction, music and set design, Waterfront Playhouse has yet again brought Broadway to Key West and transports audiences to Avenue Q.
The play has an audience advisory and is rated R for audiences 18 and up due to adult language, themes and full front puppet nudity and sex. Tickets are available at www.waterfrontplayhouse.or or 305-294-5015.
“There’s a fine, fine line between love and a waste of time.” (Kate Monster of Avenue Q)