Exploring adult themes; with puppets

Drinking, sex, bad decisions, friendship, an existential struggle for identity and meaning and puppets.

It’s hard to envision a single show that could have better encapsulated the essence of being a university student than the boldly unique and consistently hilarious Avenue Q. 

Last Tuesday’s performance of the off-Broadway production (which opened at Kitchener’s Centre in the Square) detailed the exploits of a community of post-graduates – some puppets, some humans – and their intertwining struggles to pay rent while trying to figure out their lives on the side.

Watching the performance could hardly have felt more eerily well-timed for any student, with the end of term heralding many similar sentiments of listlessness and a search for purpose like those expressed by the characters of the show.

Upon the opening number questioning what to do with a BA in English, several groans amongst the laughter from the audience suggested that the subject matter holding a particular degree of resonance for more audience members than would likely care to admit it. 

However, the cutting wit and daring willingness to shirk standards of political correctness for the sake of insightful commentary (with infamous songs like “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” and “The Internet is for Porn” evoking even heartier laughs for daring to say what most have likely thought but seldom vocalized made the show just as accessible and relevant for any in the audience, not just students.

The Internet is for porn

Avenue Q made use of a boldly minimalist set and cast, with many puppeteers trading characters as dictated by the requirements of the scene.

The show boasted a welcome, down to earth approach, which made the subject matter ring all the more meaningful.

If a complaint could be made about the evening, it was that the show’s technical work appeared unnecessarily plagued with problems.

It seemed as if the sound and light teams of the Centre in the Square and the production itself had insufficient time to work out a proper collaboration.

On several occasions, spotlights would come on in the wrong places and had to be hastily corrected, and the microphone volume would often drop to slightly lower than the comfortable range.

This made audiences at the back have to strain to hear the lyrics to some of the songs. 

Nonetheless, such concerns proved minimal, ultimately in keeping with the night’s overall endearing, down-to-earth feeling, making Avenue Q an exceptional experience – a night of insight, laughs, food for thought and a new respect for the theatrical capabilities of puppets.