Review: 'Avenue Q' by Two Planks Theater Company

Nancy Sasso Janis

Two Planks Theater Company took their roving theatre company to an impressive park in Monroe for a production of the bawdy 'Avenue Q.' After a season that included the heavy 'Next to Normal' and the segregation challenging 'Hairspray,' Two Planks decided to go with the lighthearted fun of the musical with a book by Jeff Whitty and music and often naughty lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx. The creative team of Two Planks went out of their way to warn patrons that Avenue Q is not a show for children, so no one that set up a chair or blanket on the park's lawn in front of the outdoor stage could say that they had not been warned.

"Often irreverent, frequently bawdy, but charming and laugh-out-loud funny, this coming of age story lets us examine a time in our lives when we were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed...and maybe a little bit naive as to what the world really had in store." This talented cast under the direction of Artistic Director David Halliwell and Music Director Dan Koch did a wonderful job with both the human and puppet roles and made audience members of all ages laugh throughout the show. Brooke Burling and Susan Halliwell served as producers and Judy Abbatiello taught the dancers their adorable choreography.
 
Amina Ali is in her junior year as a biology major at UCONN so she doesn't need to sing "I Wish I Could Go Back to College." She displayed fantastic dance moves in the role of the fallen child star Gary Coleman. Amanda Friedman played very well the role of pushy social worker and music teacher Jason Philips took on the role of her fiancee Brian.
 
Zack Blanchette, who will enter Warner College in the fall, played the role of Princeton and worried "What Do You Do With a B.A. in English?" although the actor himself plans to major in Musical Theatre Performance. He did a fine job with his leading role and puppet operation. Nathan Borum played the role of the closeted puppet character Rod for the second time with this production and did equally as well. Kathleen Narowski was quite adorable as the earnest Kate Monster and appropriately just the opposite as Lucy.
 
Katherine Logan covered the roles of Mrs. T and a Bad Idea Bear and attorney/chef/DJ Jason Maur was the voice of the naughty Trekkie Monster, Nicky and the other adorable/evil Bad Idea Bear. Andrew Salzano, a rising theatrical junior at Hofstra, was the very busy swing.
 

Mr. Koch (on keyboard 1) conducted the four other musicians in the pit, including Bob Kogut on drums and all filled the large space. The lighting designed by Rob Primorac was also effective in the outdoor arena and the urban set designed by Ms. Burling looked and worked well. Mrs. Halliwell was in charge of the appropriate costumes, with puppeteers in black and humans in character, and Rob Halliwell served as Puppet Master.
 
I enjoyed my second time with Two Planks. Unfortunately Avenue Q closed on Saturday and next time I will bring along another sweater.  

Photos of the cast of 'Avenue Q' by Julia Gerace

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