The colorful, cartoonish puppets in Summery Repertory Theatre’s “Avenue Q” look like they’ve come directly from the set of a certain acclaimed children’s show on public television. You’re tempted to think, “Where’s Big Bird?”

The amazing puppets, made by Mary Nagler (a Sonoma State alum whose website is, join a talented young cast at Santa Rosa Junior College’s Burbank Auditorium for the kickoff of SRT’s 2012 season.

But talk about playing with your head. “Avenue Q” is Sesame Street for grown-ups. One moment the actors will bust out with their teachable moment on the meaning of “purpose,” just as you might envision for the kids’ program. But the next they’re dropping the F bomb or engaging in puppet sex. Whether you find this hilarious, disturbing or some combination thereof, it may keep you a bit off balance as you wait for Bert and Ernie to show up.

The production’s director, Johanna Pinzler, calls the show a love letter to Muppets creator Jim Henson. The strong cast includes Steven Shear, Casey Hebbel, Dillon Heape, Donna Ibale, Nemuna Ceesay, Mikey Perdue, Brad Reinking, Ryan Brennan, Jessica Christman, Lexi Lyric, Zachary Padlo and Haley Clair.

The play is recommended for ages 18 and above.

Avenue Q” is the first of five plays to run this summer at SRT, which bills itself as one of the last theatre companies in North America to produce plays and musicals in full rotating repertory. You get to see some amazing young actors perform a variety of roles between now and mid-August.

This season’s productions include “Passion Play,” “Xanadu,” “The Mousetrap” and “Sweet Charity.” For tickets, call 527-4307 or go to

— Robert Digitale