Who: Syracuse University Drama
Where: Storch Theater – 820 E. Genesee St. Syracuse, NY
When: April 24-May 9
Tickets: $17-$19, student tickets available
Review by Kate Drozynski
Today’s review is brought to you by the letter E. E is for entertaining, engaging and exciting. Syracuse University Drama’s performance of Avenue Q in the Storch Theater at Syracuse Stage was all of these plus funny, charming and sneakily endearing.
In a world inhabited by humans, puppets and monsters alike, Avenue Q becomes a haven for the confused and unemployed. And Gary Coleman. Princeton (Michael Roach) a bright young puppet fresh out of college with a seemingly useless B.A. in English, moves to the dilapidated neighborhood and begins his search for his purpose. It sucks to be him.
Princeton’s new neighbors all suck too. There’s a human couple, Brian (Cheech Manohar) and Christmas Eve (Delphi Borich), struggling with unemployment; Ron (Stephen Gordon), a closeted puppet in love with his roommate Nicky (Cole Francum) who is definitely not gay; Kate Monster (Madie Polyak), a monster on a mission to start a school for wee monsters; Trekkie (Cole Francum), a monster upstairs who’s sole focus seems to be Internet pornography; and, of course, 1980s child star Gary Coleman (Emma Roos) who serves as superintendent to the building. Throw in interruptions from the nefarious Lucy the Slut (Melissa Beaird) and the Bad Idea Bears (Mitchell Harrison and Jillian Wipfler) and you have a felt-wrapped comedy of errors.
The puppets were a riot, singing songs like “It Sucks to Be Me,” “I’m Not Wearing Underwear Today” and “My Girlfriend, Who Lives In Canada.” But watching the performers behind the creatures was far more interesting. Puppeteers swapped positions and voices fluidly. The feelings of the fabric faces were reflected on the cast members giving them life. Even puppeteers without lines showed the emotions of their characters, acting as much with their own face as those of the puppets. The ensemble worked together to create a twisted Sesame Street on which anyone would want to live.
At points, lyrics were difficult to hear over the sound of the orchestra pit, but the pit played well and, while the lyrics were hilarious, not much was missed in the few drowned-out bars.
“Avenue Q”, through goofy plots and outrageous characters, tricks the audience into considering real issues like racism, homelessness and the palpable mental decline of young, recent college graduates coping with Special Snowflake Syndrome. A lot of the points hit close to home. Once again we’re being taught by puppets and, like when we were kids, we don’t even realize it.