Watch Me Entertain Myself!

Sacha Guitry once said, "You can pretend to be serious, but you can't pretend to be witty." Oh yes, I'm the great pretender.
(pilot episode: 20 January 2004)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Puppet Masters

“We’re just puppets in a play.” – The Cascades, Punch And Judy Show

Last week was the second time I had watched Avenue Q; the first time was during its first run. Not much difference really; except for a change in one cast member, the whole production is almost the same, including the venue.

The primary conceit of the play Avenue Q is that the production looks and sounds like a children’s show (specifically Sesame Street), but the lessons are quite adult. But just like the TV series from where they take off, the people who populate Avenue Q aren’t a miserable bunch—in fact, they’re always laughing, singing and putting on a happy smile. This, despite the fact that they declare, “It sucks to be me,” acknowledge that, “Everyone’s a little bit racist,” and make fun of other people’s miseries with “Schadenfreude.” Yes, these people and puppets aren’t perfect, nor are they living perfect lives. But they still manage to put on quite a show (including the first ever puppet sex I’ve seen).

When Kate Monster spits out, “But I don’t want a friend, I already have enough friends!” before singing, “There’s a fine, fine line between love and a waste of time,” I felt that her character was more human than most characters you see in telenovelas and rom-coms. (Oo na, relate-na-relate ako sa linya niya, hahaha!) Kate is a puppet voiced and operated by Rachel Alejandro, but while at first your eyes are looking at her, as the play progresses your eyes become used to and are riveted by the puppet itself.

The play presents realistic life lessons in a very unreal way (puppets, seemingly perennially cheerful humans). And yet it all works. For a play that extols the virtues of the Internet as a source of porn, encourages people to make noise while having sex, and champions the fact that it’s okay to be gay, Avenue Q surprisingly (or not surprisingly) has eluded heavy-handed lesson-teaching. As they say, a spoonful of sugar makes the bitter pill go down easy.

I especially love the last song, “For Now.” In one succinct and melodic number, the play reminds us that nothing is permanent, that there is no such thing as forever. Whether good or bad, everything has an end. If it’s a good thing, enjoy it while it lasts. If it’s a bad thing, endure it for it won’t last long. Whatever you do just grin and enjoy/bear it, because it is only for now.

Avenue Q has mature themes and lessons that portray a realistic, adult view of the world; despite that, it deftly avoids pessimism and cynicism. Adulthood need not be a descent into jadedness. The puppets and the people in your neighborhood that is Avenue Q remind us that a healthy sense of humor—and having someone’s hand shoved up from under you—will help you keep you inner child with you.

4 comments:

Quentin X said...

Incidentally, Avenue Q is also touring Australia. As a matter of fact, they are still in Brisbane I think. I went to see it a few weeks ago, it was hilarious. It is a must-see musical. Even my colleague at work dragged her bf along to watch it. I love it so much I bought the album online.

~Carrie~ said...

It was fun to watch.

Von_Draye said...

I watched it last year, iiyak ka sa kakatawa, iiyak ka rin sa drama.
Good thing they sold statement shirts. eye catcher ang shirt with Schadenfreude.

parang gusto ko ulit manood.

ʎonqʎʇıɔ said...

saw it last weekend! kaso andun ako sa nosebleed seats. haha i really enjoyed it. i was familiar with a few of the songs. buti nalang hindi ko alam yung best ones. hearing it with fresh ears was a very pleasant experience. i especially loved the fine, fine line song. not sure about the title.