Puppet perfection

Avenue Q, Arts Club, Vancouver theatre

Don’t worry about the puppet-sex warning in Avenue Q; it’s hilarious

The Arts Club’s production of Avenue Q is pretty much perfect. No kidding.

A distillation of the concerns of Gen X, Avenue Q explores the struggles of a group of young adults who are finding out they’re not as special as they’ve been brought up to believe. They search for meaning—and meaningful relationships—but they do so fully equipped with irony.

That irony extends to the form itself: the characters are all neighbours in one of New York’s seamier ‘hoods—and, as on Sesame Street, some are humans and some are puppets. Rather than spouting reassuring life lessons, however, this bunch sings songs that include “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” and “The Internet Is for Porn.”

These songs (by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marks) are infectiously hummable as well as witty. And director Peter Jorgenson, whose attention to detail wins the day on every front, has assembled a knockout cast to sing ’em. Kayla Dunbar plays Katy Monster, a fuzzy kindergarten teacher who activates on behalf of “people of fur”, as well as Lucy the Slut. Dunbar is pitch-perfect and nuanced in both roles. Andrew MacDonald-Smith is energetic and precise as Rod, a closeted gay Republican, and Princeton, who can’t figure out what to do with his BA in English. I also particularly enjoyed Shannon Chan-Kent as Christmas Eve. Although this character is supposed to be Japanese-American, she comes across as stereotypically Chinese-Canadian in this mounting, and it’s hilarious. Just wait for Chan-Kent’s delivery of the ballad, “When You Ruv Someone (You Want to Kirr Them).” And it’s great to see Scott Bellis, who’s usually playing the likes of Hamlet or King John, voicing and manipulating the porn-loving Trekkie Monster, among others. The talented cast also includes Jeny Cassady, Andy Toth, and Evangelina Kambites, who plays Gary Coleman.

The performances never waiver. And Marshall McMahen’s set—a scary version of Sesame Street—is spot-on.

I laughed myself stupid. I left singing the songs. Buy your tickets now.

My pal Kathleen Oliver reviewed this show for the Straight. You can check out her rave here: http://www.straight.com/arts/395156/avenue-q-one-summers-biggest-treats

 

About Colin Thomas

Colin Thomas is a Vancouver-based editor, an award-winning playwright, and an established theatre critic. Colin helps writers unlock the full potential of their novels, short stories, screenplays, and children's books.

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