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You Are Not Special

ACE's Avenue Q is Sesame Street for the millennial generation
Mrs. T & Jenny Parks
Mrs. T & Jenny Parks

Long-running PBS series (now on HBO) Sesame Street teaches children the fundamentals: ABCs and 123s, but also the principles of sharing, self-confidence and acceptance of others.

Tony Award-winning musical comedy Avenue Q — written by Jeff Marx, Robert Lopez and Jeff Whitty (an Oregon native and University of Oregon grad) — is like Sesame Street for the quarter-life-crisis set. Complete with Jim Henson-style puppetry, the show, which debuted in 2003, offers advice for getting through that tough, post-college patch.

And although, ideally, college graduates have the ABCs and 123s down, the play points out that in this period of life there’s still a lot to learn about sharing, self-confidence and acceptance of one’s self and others

Under the direction of Anthony Krall, Avenue Q is running at Actor’s Cabaret of Eugene, and it’s an utterly charming production — a lighthearted antidote to socially conservative Trumpism. ACE hits all the marks with the show: strong singing, excellent comic timing, professional staging and impressive utilization of the puppets. 

Princeton, voiced by Cody Mendonca, is a recent college graduate coming to the big city to find his purpose. “What do you do with a B.A. in English?” he sings. Princeton moves to Avenue Q, where he meets Kate Monster (Tracy Knights) as well as the rest of this quirky neighborhood populated both by puppets and humans. 

The entire cast is fantastic. In particular, there’s Connor Criswell’s closeted homosexual puppet Rod. And Princeton’s building superintendent is Gary Coleman, played by Chelyce Chambers. Yes, that Gary Coleman. Why? Because, why not?

And the show is absolutely stolen by Asian-American immigrant Christmas Eve (Gene Chin) and the Oscar the Grouch-style puppet Trekkie Monster (Jeremy Wilken). Both Chin and Wilken bring the house down on several occasions, particularly with Trekkie Monster’s outrageous number “The Internet is for Porn.” 

A clumsy love affair blossoms between Princeton and Kate Monster, and lessons are learned, not only about self-actualization but also universal truths, such as: Life sucks sometimes, you don’t always accomplish your dreams, and everyone’s a little bit racist. (See? Left-leaning urbanites aren’t all SJW lightweights who can’t take a joke.)

And although Avenue Q is about taking the lumps of adulting, its biggest takeaway is the most important: Life and love are tough, and you don’t always get what you want. But in these things, and in many more ways, Avenue Q says you’re never truly alone. A lesson we’re all going to need to remember in the political climate of the next four years.

Avenue Q runs through Feb. 18 at Actors Cabaret Of Eugene; $16 to $47.95, tickets at actorscabaret.org or 541-683-4368.