Mom Theater Blogger: HAND TO GOD: Show Review by Robin Gorman Newman
If there ever was a demonic alter ego that will go down in theatrical history, he’s currently on stage at the Booth Theatre.
Hand to God, opened on Broadway on April 7th, marking the Broadway debut (and an impressive one) of playwright Robert Askins, and introducing audiences to Tyrone, the sock puppet from Hell they will never forget. Noting is sacred when Tyrone is around, not even Christ or the church. This is a biting black comedy, literally….at times screamingly funny, yet with a gnawing undercurrent of angst.
In Hand to God, we also meet three teenagers who participate in a Christian Puppet Ministry at their local church in the devoutly religious small town of Cypress, Texas. One is Jason, who is grieving the loss of father, another is sincere, bespectacled Jessica, who is the object of his affection, and the third is the strapping, wise-talking Timothy who lusts after Jason’s mother, Margery, who dutifully leads the puppet practice as they gear up for a church performance. Also vying for Margery’s affection is the church pastor Greg. But, on the heels of her husband’s death, sex is not high on Margery’s list, or so it seems, as she endeavors to answer to a higher calling.
The shy and repressed Jason gets more and more frustrated — trying to keep in check his own sexual urges and anger toward his mother — blaming her for not helping prevent his father’s demise and forcing him to participate in puppetry. He starts to resent the church and all that religious belief stands for. Enter Tyrone…..who seems innocent enough until he can’t contain himself anymore and wreaks havoc on the church….spewing his unfiltered, fiercely foul-mouthed philosophies about religious saviours, wanton desire, etc. He lends voice — and brutal action — to what Jason is unable to share, leading Jason to battle his own inner demons, in this case the one who has taken residence on his left hand. When Jason retreats to the church basement room where the puppet group has been meeting, a bold Jessica attempts to free him by climbing in the window with her own sock puppet Jolene, a well endowed lusty gal who humps Tyrone in a variety of positions. The scene is both crazy funny and bitterly sad, as Jason remains a victim of Tyrone, despite their sharing about frustrations, etc. It’s as much laughter for comedy sake as it is for unease.
The three years of development on this play include its previous acclaimed productions at the Ensemble Studio Theatre (EST) in 2011 and its more recent Off-Broadway debut at MCC Theater in 2014. Hand to God is directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel in a strong Broadway debut.
The show features Steven Boyer as Jason/Tyrone; Geneva Carr, in her Broadway debut, as Margery; Tony® Award nominee Marc Kudisch as Pastor Greg; Sarah Stiles as Jessica; and Michael Oberholtzer, in his Broadway debut, as Timmy. Boyer reprises the role for which he has been honored with an Obie Award, the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Leading Actor in a Play, the Actors’ Equity Association Clarence Derwent Award for Most Promising Newcomer, and a citation from the Drama League for Distinguished Performance, among other awards.
The cast is uniformly outstanding, and Boyer is a wonder. How he dons Tyrone and brings him to life with such a ferocity is quite a feat of stamina, adept puppetry and talent to spare.
The design team for Hand to God includes scenic design by Beowulf Boritt, costumes by Sydney Maresca, lighting by Jason Lyons, sound by Jill BC Du Boff, puppet design by Marte Johanne Ekhougen, and fight direction by Robert Westley.
Visit http://www.handtogodbroadway.com. You will never look at your sock drawer the same.