Directed by Dawn Erickson
MIT Musical Theater Guild
Aug. 30–31 at 8 p.m.,
Sept. 1 at 2 p.m.,
Sept. 5–7 at 8 p.m.,
Sept. 12–14 at 8 p.m.
Kresge Little Theater
The beloved theme song of the Internet, “The Internet is for Porn,” comes to MIT in the Musical Theater Guild’s production of Avenue Q. With a story about a group of friends with real-life problems, such as closeted homosexuality, porn addiction, and graduating with a liberal arts degree, the show mixes puppets, actors, and even a shadow theater in a hilarious pastiche of Sesame Street for adults.
Although I have been dying to see the show for a while, I was skeptical that a cast of amateur puppeteers could implement the diverse range of emotions needed for the show without awkwardness. However, the Musical Theater Guild succeeds in bringing the characters to life, as they sing, drink, and have sex as loud as they want.
The story follows Princeton (puppeteered by Matthew S. Peairs ’09), a liberal arts major who searches for his purpose while learning helpful life lessons. The rather predictable budding relationship between him and Kate Monster (puppeteered by Caroline B. Aronoff ’15) is overshadowed by the vitriolic best buddies Nicky (puppeteered by David Wright and Holly Constant) and Rod (puppeteered by Andrew W. Koche ’14), paralleling Bert and Ernie. The purple-furred Trekkie Monster, puppeteered by the team of Greg J. Lohman PhD ’07 and Brett Popiel, is also a crowd-pleaser, as he insists that the Internet is for porn. Gary Coleman (Chamille J. Lescott ’16) and Japanese Christmas Eve (Thao Nguyen G) round out the ethnic stereotypes.
As an Asian-American, I was concerned that I would find Christmas Eve, a Japanese woman with a stereotypical r/l shift, offensive, but Nguyen accurately portrays the kind of Asian woman who would become a tiger mother, or at least a tiger wife.
The casting of the puppeteers fits the characters so well that it is sometimes difficult to decide whether to pay attention to the puppet or the puppeteer, especially for the seductive Lucy the Slut (puppeteered by Madeline McCord). The Princeton puppet’s gloomy look is initially a bit jarring against Peairs’ beaming face, although his depressing expression becomes more appropriate in the second act.
Although agonizing over job prospects is perhaps more relevant for liberal arts graduates of the college up the road, everyone can find a moment they relate to in this musical. From relationship troubles, to dealing with homosexuality, or even to moping inside your room, it’s better to laugh at your issues than to be depressed by them — and this production of Avenue Q does a good job of encouraging you to do just that.