Editor’s Note: This is a more unconventional review. Tyler and his friend Zach Marshall reviewed SOU’s production of Avenue Q in a conversation form. Hope you enjoy it.
Tyler: So, we just came out of the theater. Zach, what are your initial thoughts?
Zach: It was just about everything I expected it would be. I was very much aware of the content of “Avenue Q” beforehand, however, it did not fail to thoroughly shock me. It was off the wall with the shock value.
Tyler: Yes, there were many things in this play I did not see coming from puppets.
Zach: I think that’s one of the best parts about it. I remember the director talking to us and saying that the whole style of puppetry is supposed to take you off balance. You’re drawn in by these puppets and … and once you hear this cute little puppet saying, “Crabby old bitches are the bedrock of this society”, you are immediately thrown around. But you still can’t help but feel for the show and I think that’s fantastic.
Tyler: I agree, I think there was a very good contrast between having something that looks like a little kids’ program, and presenting very adult themes. I’m concerned that unknowing parents may have brought their children to the show.
Zach: I should hope not! Parents should definitely not bring children to the show, unless they want them knowing about porn, the realities of life, and just about everything that could possibly go wrong in a parental talk later in the evening. However, if you’re okay with your kids seeing puppet boobs, than by all means come.
Tyler: In one part of the play, one of the characters was singing how they wished they were back in college. Obviously there’s a large college audience attending, and I like how they made the point that maybe in college your circumstances really aren’t that bad.
Zach: Right, but they seemed to say that “everyone sure has it together in college”, and that is the biggest lie I’ve ever heard. Honestly, every other kid here in college doesn’t know what they’re gonna do with their life. There was a kind of irony like that in almost all of the songs. Every irony you could possibly think of was portrayed. To be honest, I wonder what kind of implications they were going for with college.
Tyler: They definitely seemed to present a lot of gritty, conventional issues in unconventional ways. That was kind of a constant theme. And Zach, weren’t you kind of on the production side of things?
Zach: I had an extremely minor role. I was a part of a branch of the costume department, which essentially just throws clothes back into storage. However, I did get to paint Trekkie Monster’s nails.
Tyler: Oh no. Viewers of the play will realize how gross that could be.
Zach: Lots of jokes were made, I assure you. You can tell that everyone in production had a lot of fun. And on the topic of costuming, the department made these puppets entirely from scratch.
Tyler: Wow, really?
Zach: Everything was from scratch. And making a puppet is difficult because it has a lot of different components. The inside of the puppets’ mouths are actually half-circles of wood; that’s the kind of support these puppets need.
Tyler: Yeah, and I was surprised how much emotion they were able to convey just through pieces of felt and wood.
Zach: The actors aren’t looking at the audience either, they’re looking at the puppet so that all the attention goes straight to the puppet.
Tyler: It seems like there’s a lot of unique challenges being a puppeteering actor.
Zach: Yup, I’d agree with you. I think the actors did great – especially with the singing.
Tyler: Oh yeah, the singing voices were incredible.
Zach: They were great, and if anything there was so much singing that if they wanted too, they could have blown out the system. Ironically, for the song “You Can Be as Loud as You Want “, that was the only time that everyone was singing so loudly that you could hear the sound system. Oh, and I was also surprised by some of the pop culture references from my childhood, like Judge Judy.
Tyler: The show presents real issues that people really deal with, but at the same time it’s a massive callback to the audiences’ childhood.
Zach: Yeah, there’s even audience interaction, which should be expected of a musical. If you want to interact with the actors, I would recommend sitting towards the front end of the theater. The actors will come to you, but if interaction makes you uncomfortable – and if much of anything makes you uncomfortable – you might have a bad time.
Tyler: Yes. I did enjoy the play, but you have to have a certain perspective while watching it. I can’t imagine any grandmother’s from Louisiana appreciating this play.
Tyler: That kind of gritty realism was a constant theme in the play, and in the end it seemed to me that the play was ultimately optimistic, even though it has a very cynical, “life sucks for now” message.
Zach: For now. The play kind of circulates around that and they find a way of coming full circle with a good healthy “F you”. I think everyone can appreciate some things in the play at face value if you’re not too offended by the end. I mean, holy cow! They touched on all the things. All the things!
Tyler: Yeah, basically any social issue that’s uncomfortable to talk about either in public or with a stranger, they address openly.
Zach: Uh huh. I would like to personally talk about the Bad Idea Bears.
Tyler: Oh yes.
Zach: I thought they were by far one of the most creative and awesomely portrayed things.
Tyler: Everybody knows the Bad Idea Bears regardless of whether you’ve seen the play or not. You do know them rather personally.
Zach: It’s so true. If you think you shouldn’t do something, but you do it anyways, you know the Bad News Bears.
Tyler: Bad Idea Bears.
Zach: That one.
Tyler: Though, the Bad News Bears closely follow.
Tyler: The dialogue and the voice work for the Bad Idea Bears was just great, I loved it.
Zach: And they’re not even really an antagonist, they’re just something that’s there.
Tyler: Right, they’re a factor of life to deal with. In most works of fiction when a character has to make a moral decision, they’ll have like a little devil on one shoulder and a little angel on the other, and this play completely circumvented of that because instead it was only bad ideas that came to mind.
Zach: So normally there is an angel and the devil, but this time it’s just a devil and a devil and that’s it.
Tyler: But they don’t look like devils at the time!
Zach: They’re so cute!
Tyler: Care Bears, they look like Care Bears!
Zach: And I think that was the best part – mixing bad ideas with the overly happy characters. The Bad Idea Bears bring out the puppet stereotypes the most.
Tyler: So let’s see, I’m trying to think of closing comments or something.
Zach: So Tyler, tell me what your favorite part was and what would make you want to go see it a second time?
Tyler: I was thoroughly, thoroughly shocked and continued to be shocked, and I really enjoyed that. In a second viewing, that would reduce the shock value, but I would try to gain a deeper appreciation of the music and the dialogue and the actors. Especially since this play won the Triple Crown, which is pretty impressive. I think that speaks to the significance of the play.
Zach: What I liked was despite all the shock value, the show invites you to come along – despite what you think or believe. The show disarms you and carries you along, it really is a friendly show. Not for kids! But it’s a friendly show, it really wasn’t attacking in any way. It was disarming and shocking and alarming, but in the best way. If I was to go back and see it again, I would want to come with someone who hasn’t seen it yet.
Tyler: And watch their reactions?
Zach: And watch their reactions! Because I thought this was a trip if anything, and I would want to congratulate the actors on an amazing show because they did a really good job. I couldn’t find a bad voice at all. And I’d definitely go back for the music.
Tyler: Yes, the music is pretty great.
Tyler: I don’t have much more to say, do you?
Zach: You know, I think this will be enough for us to work with.
Tyler: Alright! Zach, thanks again for doing this with me.
Zach: No, thank you Tyler. It was a good show, we should go see another show and do more reviews.
Tyler: I think this will be a thing.
Zach: This should be a thing.
Tyler: I think we’ll end on that note, so uh, goodnight ladies and gentlemen.
Zach: I love you.