A trip to Avenue Q

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  • Zakiya Barnes (Right), and Chris Schachern (Left) rehearsing their parts for Avenue Q. At Rehearsal for Avenue Q on Tuesday April. 22, 2014.

  • Rod (Right, Played by Angelino Simbulan) and Nicky(Left played two puppets in the play Avenue Q. At Rehearsal for Avenue Q on Tuesday April. 22, 2014.

  • Alex Rosales (Left, Brian in the play), and Louisse Germonimo (Right, playing Kate in the play. at rehearsal in the play Avenue Q. At Rehearsal for Avenue Q on Tuesday April. 22, 2014.

  • Actor Kevin Valera (right) holding Princeton (the puppet) At Rehearsal for Avenue Q on Tuesday April. 22, 2014.

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“Avenue Q” may be a story about furry monsters that live in an outer borough of New York City, but it is a story that will hit very close to home for most Skyline students who saw one of the three performances the weekend of April 25.

Beyond the puppets, and the singing and the dancing, “Avenue Q” is a story about an idealistic college graduate named Princeton, played by Kevin Valera, who struggles to find his purpose in his post-college life. Along the way he also struggles to find the rent, a date, and a decent friend in a world that is far more depressing and messed-up than he once believed.

Couple this plot with songs about racism, coming out of the closet, and the thin line between loving someone and treating them like crap, it’s hard to imagine how puppets, dancing, and a caricature of Gary Coleman can get to the heart of the issues while remaining lighthearted and funny.

That is until you see it performed by the Skyline theater department.

“We decided to expand it,” Jude Navari, the show’s producer, said. “The original production was … a very small cast, a very compact show that way, but we wanted to incorporate as many students as we could to open that up and we were kind of inspired by some of the Muppet movies where you see the Muppets but there’s these casts of thousands on the street that become part of the scene.”

“I’ve seen the Muppets on TV but this is all new to me,” Adrienne Schnieder, an audience member, said.

The cast members themselves ranged from seasoned vets to first-timers, but most found themselves in uncharted waters with a show this unique.

“I think none of us had any real puppeteering experience and for us not having puppeteering experience I think we worked it really well,” Malena Marsh, who played “Huggy” the Bad Idea Bear, said. “I think a lot of the cast was able to emote with the puppets. That was a couple classes all in itself just trying to make the emotions come out of the puppet itself rather than the actor.”

Crowd favorite, Louisse Geronimo, who played Kate Monster, had great success projecting through her puppet.

“I am exactly like her,” Geronimo said. “I am anal about a lot of things, I am a hopeless romantic, and I just I relate to her that way.”

At times it was hard to decide between watching Geronimo, and watching her puppet.

“I had to learn how to stay in character the whole time while you’re trying to sync with the puppet and speaking with the puppet,” Geronimo said. “Making sure that it’s alive while you’re hitting the right notes and you’re hitting the right steps and you say the right lines.”

Avenue Q is an ambitious production for a community college in its original form, but an expanded production is an even more impressive feat.

“Why Avenue Q?” Navari said. “We felt like this was a great match for the college’s mission and goals. It grapples with really important subjects in kind of an honest but fun and fresh way, looking at racism, poverty.”

In the end, the hard work of the Skyline players and the Around the Clock Dancers, who featured throughout the show, gave the audience a thought provoking and irreverent experience.

“It’s a very fun show,” Geronimo said. “So there’s really not much that can go wrong as long as you’re having fun.”

The crowd seemed to be having as much fun as the players.

“I haven’t laughed that hard in a while,” Tommy Su, another audience member, said. “It was adult laughter, too. I was, like, wowed by that.”

This article was based on the Saturday, April 26 performance.