‘Rent’ meets ‘Sesame Street’

Nothing scares college students quite like the future.

As my friends and I were sitting in Gaede Theater, anxiously awaiting for the curtain for “Avenue Q” to ascend, we had a frightening realization that graduation was only three months away, and with it, the unknowns of the future: jobs, friendship, distance, money, love. The uncertainty put chills down our spines as we tried to imagine what the real world had in store for us.

Cue “Avenue Q.”

The musical follows a group of friends trying to make its way in the world, struggling to pay rent, find love and realize their purpose in life, told through the hilarious point of view of a gang of puppets.

Princeton, a college graduate with a B.A. in English (“Four years in college and plenty of knowledge have earned me this useless degree”) finds his way to a neighborhood of crazy characters: Kate Monster, a kindergarten teaching assistant who dreams of opening her own school for monsters; Nicky, whose roommate and best friend, Rod, struggles with his sexuality as a Republican; an aspiring comedian, Brian, and his crass, Japanese therapist fiancee Christmas Eve; Trekkie Monster, a gruff recluse obsessed with pornography; and Gary Coleman, former child star turned kooky landlord.

Through several plotlines, the play explores various themes that are relevant to the college student demographic. While some might lament the offensive and disturbing content, “Avenue Q” enables the viewers to empathize with the characters through an unfiltered lense of humor. Each character brings a refreshingly realistic interpretation of the trials and tribulations of being a mid-20’s adult trying to survive in an unforgiving world.

The conflict between Nicky and Rod reflects the contrast between our increasingly accepting generation and the constricting stereotypes brought forth by the generations that preceded us. It’s apparent from the beginning that Nicky knows Rod is gay; in fact, he makes every attempt to let Rod be himself, saying that they’ll still be buddies even if he likes guys. Despite this, Rod is uncomfortable coming out because of his social standing as a wealthy, successful Republican.

As many post-graduates do, Princeton faces the challenge of choosing between pursuing love and finding his reason of being on Earth. Toss in self-proclaimed seductress Lucy the Slut and the adorable Bad Idea Bears and he’s all together lost in his journey. It’s not until he loses Kate Monster that he realizes his purpose in life is to help others.

The cast does a phenomenal job of portraying real-life issues through the eyes of their cloth counterparts. Andrew Jacobsen (Princeton) and Carolyn Schmitz (Kate Monster) drive the show with their unapologetic vulnerability and musical talent that left us both laughing and crying.

Despite the scary realization that life may throw some hardballs at us come graduation, “Avenue Q” does a perfect job of reminding us “Don’t stress, relax, let life roll off your backs. Except for death and paying taxes, everything in life is only for now.”

BY BRIAN ASHBURN
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