‘Avenue Q’ lights up Youngstown Playhouse

avenue Q

The cast of “Avenue Q” — Claire Jeannette Blackledge, David Lynch, Travis Ascione, Aaron Kubicina, Alexis Shellow, Brianne Kochunas, David Croach and Stacy Anderson — will perform three more dates at the Youngstown Playhouse on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Photo by Justin Carissimo/The Jambar.

“Avenue Q” took the stage at the Youngstown Playhouse over the weekend, reminding audiences that everyone’s life “purpose is the flame that lights a fire under your ass.”

The Youngstown Playhouse will host three more showings of the suggestive puppet show on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

The play is a satirical counterpart to educational shows like “Sesame Street.”

“Avenue Q” is a comedic musical that tells the story of a fresh college graduate named Princeton who moves into a crummy apartment in New York City.

In the city, Princeton meets an Internet porn expert, a sex worker and a homosexual Republican. Each character helps Princeton come closer to his true purpose in life.

To help complicate Princeton’s situation even further, two furry puppets named the Bad Idea Bears rest on Princeton’s shoulders and encourage him to make rash decisions.

Claire Blackledge and Aaron Kubicina, both Youngstown State University students, contributed large roles to the production. Kubicina played the role of Princeton, while Blackledge played the role of his antagonists.

Blackledge, a junior majoring in musical theater at Youngstown State University, landed the role of the Bad Idea Bears and said she had a fun time getting into character.

“There was no limit of being over the top. I’m a very fun and energetic person with a spunky and crude sense of humor, so playing the bears came natural to me,” Blackledge said.

This marked Blackledge’s first performance at the Youngstown Playhouse. She said her debut was a positive experience due to the help of her fellow actors.

“Everyone was very welcoming, kind and willing to show me around because I was new to this theater,” Blackledge said.

She had a great time portraying the funny side of her characters, but said she also took away life lessons from the play’s story.

“People have this perception on what life should be. You never know who you’re going to meet or what obstacles life will throw your way, but it’s up to us to make the best scenario out of every situation,” Blackledge said.

Lester Malazia is directing the play, which is a winner of the Tony “Triple Crown” for Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book. Malazia said the play “is innovative, but it’s sort of raunchy — just like real life.”

Malazia said shows like “Avenue Q” should be acted out more often.

“I wasn’t sure how people would react, but it’s connected with audiences across the whole spectrum,” Malazia said.

After directing Sunday’s performance, Malazia said the character he relates to the most would have to be Princeton.

“It reminds me of when I first moved to New York. I was incredibly naive, and I was always worried about what was going to happen next,” Malazia said.

Malazia, a New Castle native, has been directing for more than 35 years and has worked with Seaside Music for more than 20. Some of his friends were featured in the original debuts of “Avenue Q.”

The production may not be suitable for children, but more mature audiences will relate to themes of prostitution, drinking, homosexuality and surfing the Web for porn. More importantly, they will also be reminded to laugh throughout life’s highs and lows.

For more information, contact the Youngstown Playhouse at 330-788-8739.