Not All Puppets Live on Sesame Street
“If you brought your kids to this, you’re [expletive] parents!”
So begins Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre’s latest production, which features puppets, songs and decidedly adult situations. It’s a show so crude, rude and politically incorrect the only thing you can do is laugh.
The show follows Princeton (Colin Hood), a recent college graduate who realizes the real world isn’t as great as he imagined it. Jobless, holding a BA in English and faced with mounting bills, he moves into a low-end apartment on Avenue Q, inhabited with people who never quite fulfilled their dreams.
The tenants: Kate Monster (Malinda Markland), an assistant kindergarten teacher, longs to open a school for monsters almost as much as she longs to find a man who can look past her fur. Downstairs lives Brian (Ruben Vellekoop), a failed standup comedian, and his fiancé, Christmas Eve (Kyra Koh), a therapist with no clients. Roommates Rod (Hood again) and Nicky (Harrison Smith) are an odd couple consisting of a neatnik closeted homosexual and his understanding slob crush. Upstairs, Trekie Monster (Tim German) spends his days surfing Internet porn sites. This motley crew is helped by superintendent Gary Coleman (Nia Simone Smith). Yes, that Gary Coleman.
This jumble of crass neighbors consoles each other through life’s disappointments and celebrates small victories with cheap booze. All is going well until the Bad Decision Bears (Anastasia Sophia Herne and Henry Pazaryna) lead Princeton astray. Some explicit puppet sex and a few misunderstandings later, Princeton is no closer to figuring out what to do with his life.
Though plagued with sound troubles and uneven microphone levels that are common in outdoor productions, Avenue Q is a great way to beat the heat on a sultry night in Annapolis. Its score is filled with outrageous songs — such as “The Internet Is for Porn” and “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” — that feature simple tunes and cutting lyrics that are both true and side-splitting. The production’s focus on college graduates realizing they might not be special and not finding their dream jobs is especially timely in this tough job market.
Director Darnell Morris and puppeteering consultant German lead the cast in drawing emotion from felt creations with googly eyes. The puppets themselves are impressive creations imported from Winston-Salem’s Theatre Alliance, and the cast does their best to let them shine in their Annapolis debut. Led by expressive Hood and golden-voiced Markland, the cast is excellent at playing second banana to puppets.
Markland is the standout of the show, with a voice that surpasses the music she gets to sing. She makes Kate Monster sympathetic and soulful.
Hood has natural comic timing and a talent for creating two distinct comic voices for his performances as Princeton and Rod.
Because Markland, Hood and several other cast members play multiple roles, the comedy is slightly stilted as actors race from puppet to puppet.
Avenue Q offers hilarious songs and an intimate glimpse into the seamy lives of puppets. Just don’t take the kids.
Musical director: Joshua Konick. Set designer: Matt Mitchell. Choreographer: Nicole Martin. Lights: Garth Wells. Sound: Dan Caughran.
Playing Th-Su at 8:30pm thru July 29. Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre, 143 Compromise St. $20; rsvp: 410-268-9212; www.summergarden.com.