The musical comedy “Avenue Q,” acclaimed for such memorable numbers as “The Internet is for Porn,” “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” and “You Can be as Loud as the Hell You Want if You’re Making Love,” premiered Wednesday night at Jerusalem’s AACI Theater.
The play, which incorporates characters played by both actors and puppets, is a coming-of-age story staring Princeton, a puppet who moves to the only neighborhood he can afford, right out of college, and embarks on a journey to find his purpose in life.
Hilarity ensues when Princeton meets a colorful cast of new neighbors who challenge his previous conceptions about race, politics, sexuality and the meaning of life. “Avenue Q” premiered on Broadway in 2003 and received three Tony awards including Best Musical.
Asked if she thought audience members would be offended by the play, director Layla Schwartz said, “Most religious Jews have a sense of humor, just like anybody else. I mean, most of the people who come to see our shows are national religious or traditional.
“One of my best friends can’t wait to come see it, and he’s shomer nagi’a,” she added, describing a practice whereby some Orthodox Jews refrain from any physical contact with members of the opposite sex. “He didn’t lose his love of raunchy humor after he became religious, so I think maybe there’s a slight misconception of religious people and their sense of humor.”
“I think most of the people who are coming are aware that it’s a show for adults. Last night no one walked out or told me they were offended by the show. Everyone laughed a lot. I know some people won’t come because the show is coarse, but that’s fine,” Schwartz said.
Rachel Jacobson, who designed and made all the puppets for the show and formerly worked as an art therapist at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital, said that puppets allow people to enter a transitional space and escape from reality.
“We enter the place between reality and pretend. To be on stage with a puppet is to invite the audience to that space and believe that the puppets are real, and it’s kind of an escape to do that; you can’t hold on to reality too tightly,” she said.
Ira Kirschner, who plays Brian, a failed stand-up comedian, said that he wants to “challenge audiences” and asserted that theater has the capacity to change preconceived notions about sexuality and race.
The show is a J-Town Playhouse production and will run through December 17 at the AACI Theater.
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