Even puppets are awkward in their intimate moments. Through July 29, audiences sit just a few feet from AVENUE Q residents when they're making whoopee in Theatre Too - the compact basement space of Theatre Three.
This adults-only puppet show features songs like "The Internet is for Porn" and "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist" and strikes a chord with themes of love, friendship and acceptance. And with strong musical talent including Denise Lee and Megan Kelly Bates, this animated production delves into the show's message with all the appropriate heart and humor.
Princeton (puppet-actor: Matt Purvis) moves to Avenue Q, a fictional neighborhood in a New York City borough. Here his neighbors include humans Brian (Chester Maple), Christmas Eve (Olivia de Guzman Emile), and Kate Monster (puppet-actor: Bates), who has an instant crush on Princeton. His landlord: Gary Coleman (a delightful Lee).
As a recent college graduate, Princeton bemoans the struggles of his new adulthood. Like any good bildungsroman, he seeks his purpose. In one of the weaker aspects of this production, a tv screen at the center of the set constantly reminds him he needs to find his P-U-R-P-O-S-E.
AVENUE Q won the Tony-award for best musical in 2004 and continues to delight audiences around the world. It appeared in Dallas in 2010, shortly after Gary Coleman's death and has since added a "Too Soon?" reference by the actor playing the "Different Strokes" child star.
This production of AVENUE Q demands even more from these actors, as four puppeteers play twice as many characters. They switch hands, use microphones to throw voices and find the appropriate amount of expression. Bates is as much Kate Monster as the puppet. Director Michael Serrecchia maximizes the space and has the actors capitalizing on the up-close audience. The puppets practically look you in the eye.
As the master puppeteer, Michael Robinson trained these actors how to appropriately move the puppets (designed by Dallas Puppet Theater) and for the most part they do so with skill. Robinson also does some heavy-lifting on stage as Trekkie Monster, the Bad News Bears and occasionally another puppet or two.
In contrast with BLOODY BLOODY Andrew Jackson on Theatre Three's mainstage, AVENUE Q's sound deign by Scott Guenther levels the voices of actors with and without microphones. And you can almost forget there isn't a live band.
The strength of this musical is its overwhelming earnestness, something this production of AVENUE Q captures with apparent ease.
Tickets are available online or by phone, 214 871-3300. AVENUE Q runs through July 29 at Theatre Too (2800 Routh St. Dallas).