PRINCETON FINDS ‘AVENUE Q’ AT PLETHOS PRODUCTIONS. THE NAUGHTY PUPPET MIX IS BACK TO FIND PURPOSE
There’s a tender beauty to the story as the puppets love, yearn and bumble their way through all-too-human lives. This summer production is the perfect way to enjoy some Adulting.
Review by Vince Mediaa
The Avenue is open this summer at the Twiningvine Winery in the lovely Castro Valley wine village. Plethos celebrates their 6th season at this pleasant outdoor venue. The perfect summer evening to taste wine and explore “Purpose” with a cast of rousing puppets and their friends. Plethos Productions presents AVENUE Q only through July 16th. Director Andrew Acevedo, says “Avenue Q will always remind us that in our community we can always find joy and healing, these characters ‘cope’ with their less than pleasant realities by finding joy in the here and now.” The naughty AVENUE Q millennials are celebrating their 20th year of success that scored Tony Awards for best musical, book and score for its team Robert Lopez (Book of Mormon), Jeff Marx and Jeff Whitty. The show has been produced on a number of Bay Area stages the past few years. Producer Karin Richey brings a fresh look to this two hour musical with a young cast in an outdoor setting.
The setting on the lowest of New York's east side, the “Q” is a clash of all fears and issues, monsters dating humans, whites, blacks, gays, starving students and failed Hollywood stars and sluts. The story is set on a fictional street in an “outer-outer borough” of New York City. Princeton, a recent university graduate who feels anxious about the uselessness of his English degree and sings “What Do You Do with a BA in English?”.
The superb Nico Jaochico plays the lost hero Princeton, he struggles with the harshness of adulthood and the fact that he is penniless, jobless and purposeless. He eventually finds an affordable apartment on Avenue Q where he meets his neighbors: Kate Monster, a kindergarten assistant teacher and the girl-next-door; Rod, a closeted gay man who also happens to be a Republican banker; Nicky, Rod’s messy roommate; Brian, an aspiring comedian; Christmas Eve, Brian’s Japanese fiancée and a client-less therapist; Trekkie Monster, a grumpy recluse who is addicted to online porn; and Gary Coleman an ex TV sitcom actor and the building’s superintendent. Joachico brings the topic of “Purpose” the classic AVENUE Q story line.
Camille Denzel’s set perfectly represents the shabbiness of the neighborhood and provides the necessary doors and windows for the characters to pop in and out of scenes, as well as the infamous puppet nudity and sex scene. It is a richer, more simple village with upper access to the rooms above for the sassy Trekkie Monster. Based on an R rated version of Sesame Street, where live actors and puppets share the stage, the characters search for meaning “It Sucks to Be Me” is the theme of Act one. Stereotypes all take stage from gays to Gary Coleman, and it is all fun and clever, and at times very blue. The awesome Curtis Manning brings the grumpy Gary Coleman the classic edge to the song “Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist.”
The two roommate friends Rod and Nicky sing some classic songs performed by the lively Matthew Alsup and the delightful Benjamin Garcia. Both actors have splendid voices and great comic timing; they sing; "My Girlfriend, Who Lives in Canada" and the hilarious "If You Were Gay". The colorful puppets win all the attention on stage, mixed in with the actors who are costumed in black or bright colors for Christmas Eve and Coleman. The cast and Director Acevedo created the few dance numbers including "Purpose" with Princeton and the cast and “Schadenfreude” is a highlight.
The marvelous Kristy Aquino plays Kate Monster, and stops the show with her solo "There's a Fine, Fine Line" that ends the first act. The sassy slut, Lucy is played by the polished Megan Columbus who does her best to seduce Princeton and steal him from Kate, Lucy sings “Special” as Trekkie monster masterbates. Lucy and Kate are both a powerhouse as the female monsters. When the two ladies toss it up on stage their likable pace is excellent. Trekkie Monster is played by the dynamite Benjamin Garcia, who sings “The Internet is for Porn” rocking the sold out audience as each cast member agrees with him.
Nancy Wong is hilarious as Christmas Eve, and her solo "The More You Ruv Someone” is as camp FOB stereotyped as you can get. Christmas Eve’s groom to be Brian is played by Jamari McGee, a wanna-be comedian. The song list covers all the corners of grown up pain and search for meaning, "Mix Tape", "I'm Not Wearing Underwear Today", "I Wish I Could Go Back to College" and my favorite is “My Girlfriend Who Lives in Canada.”
The keen Kevin Pantig, and Aero England are The Bad Idea Bears who round out the cast. England is also very funny as Kate's boss, Mrs.Thistletwat. Robert Lopez’ slick humor is a constant naughty charm “I can tell just by looking that you've got it hard for me Grab your dick and double click” - Lopez and keeps the show sharp and funny. The visual clips also created by Lopez reflect some of that Sesame street flair. The puppet cast under the direction of puppet repairs and makeup include Rachelle Stone and Thomas Nguyen on design.
The hand puppets don’t overpower any scene, as Jaochico, Aquino, Alsup, Columbus and Garcia are show stoppers on their own. Music Director, Mathew Alsup, has the challenge of working with prerecorded music arranged by Stephen Oremus, that at times can upstage the action. Music Operator Anna Wesner and Sound designer David Patino had some sound issues opening night but I am sure that has been resolved. The two hour show is nonstop songs and gags that all work. Including the X rated sex scene with Princeton and Kate “You Can Be Loud As The Hell You Want (When You Are Making Love) a highlight of Act One.
AVENUE Q - is naughty and always fun, yet it is also very touching and true to human faults. “Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist” covers it all and keeps us in line for its honesty, and of course, it is a hilarious song. As the show ends Pinceton closes the story "Everything in life... is only for now." - Jaochico's excellent voice brings the show together and the company sings the tender “For Now”. Join the fun at AVENUE Q, a perfect way to add to your summer theatre season. Next up at Plethos CIRCUS MENAGERIE MURDER MYSTERY opens August 19th and PRIDE & PREJUDICE Sept 8th. In the meantime discover your “Purpose” with this marvelous cast of the “Q” it is always a fun show. “There’s a fine, fine line between a fairytale and a lie.”
Plethos Productions Presents
By Robert Lopez, Jeff Marx and Jeff Whitty,
Directed by Andrew Acevedo
Music Director Matthew Alsup
Produced by Karen Richey
Must Close July 16th
Twining Vine Winery
16851 Cull Canyon Rd, Castro Valley, CA 94552
Running time: 2 hours, one intermission
Photos by Cathy Breslow
Kate - Kristy Aquino @keaikristy
Princeton - Nico Jaochico @neekdadeek
Brian - Jamari McGee @itsmeemasterj
Christmas Eve - Nancy Wong @huntpeaches
Nicky & Trekkie Monster - Benjamin R Garcia @benjaminrafaelgarcia
Bad Idea Bears played by Aero
@549aero and Kevin Pantig @kevinpantig
Gary Coleman - Curtis Manning @cjmanning17
Lucy - Megan Columbus
Princeton Understudy & Stage Manager
extraordinaire played by Neil Quintilla @realneilquintilla