Arts musical review

What do you do with a B.A. in English?

Avenue Q, the college version of Sesame Street, strikes again

Avenue Q

Music and Lyrics by Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez

Book by Jeff Whitty

Kresge Little Theater

Playing Sept. 7–9 and 14–16, 2017 8 p.m.

MIT’s Musical Theatre Guild presents Avenue Q, Tony award-winning musical with a plethora of puppet and human residents of Avenue Q. Princeton (David Favela ’18), a recent college graduate with a B.A. in English, seeks his purpose in life by moving into an apartment at Avenue Q. There, we meet his neighbors, Kate Monster (Caroline Walsh ’17), roommates Rod (Luis Orrego ’13) and Nicky (Kirsten Olson ’14), Brian (Lucas Commons-Miller) and his fiancee Christmas Eve (Thao Nguyen G), Trekkie Monster (Geoff Hegg ’17), and superintendent Gary Coleman (Lali Haines). Each character has his or her own problems to solve as they move onto the adult stage of their lives.

The cast interacts as if from Sesame Street, but with the puppeteers voicing characters through the stage. It’s a bizarre experience that offers plenty of laughs and emotions. Puppets having sex has never been more fun; you won’t see this on a kid’s show. The musical makes great use of this puppetry gimmick. Actors carry an ensemble of Muppet-like characters and sing along on the side. There’s even a dream sequence of two puppets holding hands and spinning through the sky as they fly above.

Meanwhile, the Bad Idea Bears, two bear puppets that show up in imagination, give poor Princeton, well, bad ideas. Alcohol and the sultry vixen Lucy (Kitty Drexel) draw Princeton into their own “puppetry,” but nothing robs him of his common sense as much as his vain search for his higher purpose. Like most college graduates, Princeton still believes in his own worth, and fearing a committed relationship with Kate, continues his search.

But the fun is over when idealism slowly self-destructs. Bills, debt, racism, and what it means to “adult” cause our characters to question themselves. For Princeton: What is my purpose? For Kate and Trekkie: Why are Monsters treated differently? For Rod: How do I come to terms with my gay identity? Meanwhile, Christmas Eve, whose life seems the most wholesome of all the characters, offers witty advice to each character. Usually used for laughs, her advice are actually nuggets of wisdom and insight into the other characters. When Christmas and Brian marry and leave Avenue Q for a different neighborhood, we see a glimpse of everyone else’s future, when they too settle into their careers, their relationships, and finally, themselves.

In the beginning, Princeton whines about his higher purpose so often you will get frustrated. He does face his lack of purpose, a fact Rick and Morty puts best: “Nobody exists on purpose, nobody belongs anywhere, everybody's gonna die.” The musical concludes when the cast sings “For Now,” the musical equivalent of “carpe diem” and much more. Fundamentally a hopeful musical, this is no predatory lecture on the dangers of life; Avenue Q embraces the living, because no one is special, nothing is permanent, and regardless of the good and bad, you should stop worrying for now.