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Puppets to deviate from perceptions with ‘mature’ show in Columbus

Courtesy of Red Generation Photography

Puppets have traditionally taught people their ABCs, not about the appropriate volume for making love. But the characters of “Avenue Q” aren’t traditional puppets. 

“Avenue Q” presented by theater company CATCO, is slated to run at the Vern Riffe Center, Studio One Theatre Wednesday through April 21. 

The musical focuses on life lessons like the realities of growing up and finding a job. The messages are delivered through puppets that swear, crack jokes and even have sex onstage. The show is rated R and is for mature audiences only, according to a press release.

Steven Anderson, director of the show and producing director for CATCO, described the musical as a humorous way to look at growing up.

“It’s really about 20-something angst and about who am I and where am I going and why isn’t my life taking off as quickly as I hoped it would,” Anderson said.

Patrick Walters plays Brian, a struggling comedian, and is one of the few characters who does not work with a puppet. An Ohio State alumnus, Walters said the show is relatable to anyone who has been a student and faces the challenges of getting a job and becoming an adult.

“We all have to swallow that pill. It’s easy to look back and laugh,” Walters said.

With songs such as “The Internet Is For Porn” and “Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist,” Anderson said the show can be shocking, but the audiences are generally receptive.

“People have just taken it to heart, and the puppets can get away with more than real people could,” Anderson said. “They’re so disarming you can’t really take it seriously.”

Don Knoblauch, another OSU alumnus who plays Trekkie Monster, Nicky and one of the Bad Idea Bears, agreed that the puppets enable some of the more scandalous scenes to go over with less offense.

“I think the first time you hear a puppet swear it can set you back a second, but I think once you get into the show and accept the reality we’re presenting that it goes right along,” Knoblauch said. “And then there’s the puppet sex scene, which is still shocking even to some people in the show.”

Knoblauch has worked with puppets before, namely for the first run of “Avenue Q,” and said doing the show was not a difficult jump to make. Walters, however, said he never thought he would do a show with puppets, and there was a learning curve to interacting with the puppets rather than the other actors controlling them. He said his favorite part of the show is watching the other actors who work with puppets.

“It’s pretty amazing, the work they can do with such a short period and just bring it to life. Somehow in some weird way those puppets have facial expressions even though they’re expressionless,” Walters said.

CATCO first produced the show in August 2012, and it was so well-received that it has been brought back for another run, Anderson said. The August run was at the Palace Theatre, but the director said he likes the Riffe Center better because it is more intimate and appropriate for the show. He said he expects many shows will sell out in the 227-seat space.

“Avenue Q” is set to run Wednesday at 11 a.m., Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Additional shows are set for April 11 through 14 and April 18 through 21. Those Thursday through Saturday shows are set to begin at 8 p.m., and Sunday shows are set for 2 p.m.

The Riffe Center, Studio One Theatre is located at 77 S. High St.

Students can get discounted tickets for $15 two hours before any performance at the Drake Performance and Event Center Box Office at 1849 Cannon Drive on campus or at the box office at 39 E. State St.

Tickets for Wednesday’s matinee performance are $11.50. Tickets for the first Thursday show are $33.50. The remaining Thursday and Sunday shows are $41, and Friday and Saturday shows are $45. Regular price tickets are available through the box office or Ticketmaster.

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