Tuesday December 18 10:19 am

Spotlighting events along the south shore of Lake Michigan

“Avenue Q” is Just as Much Fun the Second Time Around!

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“Avenue Q”, a place where people, puppets and monsters all live together, made me laugh until my cheeks hurt! The small stage and intimate atmosphere at the Mercury is particularly well suited to “Avenue Q”. This adults-only spoof of a well-known public TV children’s show is not for the faint-of-heart. It’s absolutely hilarious – and totally profane. Even better, most of the cast returned from the 2014 production!

After the intro, “The Avenue Q Theme”, which sounds a lot like the theme from that other TV puppet show, someone intones that Avenue Q is sponsored by the letters ‘F’ and ‘U’. A video board adds its occasionally profane comic messages. Almost everything is the same, with the exception of some judicious updates in the dialog – for example, “no more Trump” has been substituted for “no more hashtags”, thus keeping “Avenue Q” mostly relevant.

There are three actual people, Brian (Matthew Miles), Christmas Eve (Audrey Billings) and Gary Coleman (David S. Robbins) along with eleven puppets: Princeton (Jackson Evans), Kate Monster (Leah Morrow), Nicky/Bad Idea Bear (Daniel Smeriglio), Rod/Newcomer (Christian Siebert), Ricky/Trekkie Monster (Jonah D. Winston), and Lucy/Mrs.Thistlewat/Bad Idea Bear (Stephanie Herman), living on Avenue Q.

Princeton, a new college grad, has a B.A. in English but can’t find a job. Starting on Avenue A, he looks for an apartment but the only place he can afford is on Avenue Q. Much to his surprise, Princeton recognizes his landlord as former child star, Gary Coleman, whose finances have reduced him to a job as a building superintendent. Princeton whines about how much his life sucks, at which point everyone in the cast vies to have the ‘suckiest life’, singing “It Sucks to Be Me.”

A neighbor, Brian, a terrible comedian who can’t find a gig, lives with his fiancée, Christmas Eve, a therapist without any clients. Another neighbor, Rod, an uptight Republican banker type, lives with his lazy buddy, Nicky. When Nicky carelessly suggests that Rod is gay, “If You Were Gay”, hurt and angry, Rod denies that he’s gay and throws Nicky out.

Princeton meets Kate Monster, a kindergarten teaching assistant who dreams of starting a Monster-sori school for monsters. He makes the mistake of asking her if she’s related to Trekkie Monster, and she accuses him of racism. He counters that she’s racist for limiting her school to monsters, leading into “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist.”

Trekkie Monster, who lives upstairs, spends all of his time surfing the Net, “The Internet Is for Porn”, but in the end, porn apparently pays well. The Bad Idea Bears turn up periodically to tempt people into doing the wrong thing. When Princeton and Kate break up, Lucy, the slut puppet, is waiting to seduce him.

The success of a production of “Avenue Q” is dependent upon the talent and abilities of the actor/puppeteers who are present on stage but “invisible” to the story. In the rehearsal process every actor must memorize their lines, learn the songs, and how and where to move about the stage. In “Avenue Q”, they also had to learn to be puppeteers – how to make their puppets animated – to speak, to gesture, to sing. Their bodies must parallel every movement their puppets make – perfectly. Kudos to all of them, they are amazing!

“Avenue Q” runs through November 4th at the Mercury Theater, 3745 N. Southport Avenue, Chicago. Valet parking is available. Performances are Wednesday through Friday at 8:00 pm; Saturdays at 5:00 and 8:30 pm; and Sundays at 3:00 pm. Tickets range from $35-$65. FYI (773) 325-1700 or www.MercuryTheaterChicago.com.