Monday, April 13, 2015

Hand to God @ The Booth Theater

Robert Askin’s satirical new play, Hand to God, goes to all extremes in a rich look into a religious family’s broken home and the foul-mouthed sock puppet determined to unleash the devil in us all. 
The play mostly takes place within the blue painted cement walls of the church’s basement-a place for hope and God’s love, as the poster’s on the wall would have you believe anyway. Here we open to a puppet class, a welcome distraction for Margery(Geneva Carr) whose husband died six months earlier and is now at a loss as to how to fill her time. Enter Jason(Steven Boyer), shy, good hearted and seriously crushing on hipster Jessica(Sarah Stiles), while Timothy(Michael Oberholtzer) makes snide comments(he after all needs a place to crash during his mother’s 12 step) while simultaneously trying to woo Marg, in a Stacy’s Mom sort of fantasy. The puppet class is hardly something to be proud of with only Jason finished, his sock puppet Tyrone lovingly placed on his left hand and a rendition of “Jesus Loves Me” in his back pocket. Nevertheless, the show must go on as insisted upon Paster Greg(Marc Kudisch), whose “empty arms” need to be filled and whose “empty ears” need to listen. 

All is as it should be until Jason delivers a fabulous rendition of the famous “Who’s on First”  monologue in the hopes of wooing Jessica. Accepted immediately, Jessica wonders aloud if he made that up himself, “Yes.”

“Liar,” replies the previously voiceless Tyrone in what escalates as full out war on morality led by what might be the devil himself.

Boyer shines in his dual personality role, somehow able to convey both party’s emotions and lines. Though we can see his mouth moving the entire time, the audience cannot help but recognize Tyrone as another player. Unable to dismiss the rest of the cast as caricatures despite their hilarious idioms, Stiles deadpan delivery and Oberholtzer’s physical comic timing come to mind, one cannot help but be pulled into their very real struggles. 

The noteworthy Carr delivers as the frantic Texan mother, hell bent(see what I did there) on being good and honoring her dead husband’s memory, but quite unable to quell her very bad decisions. Her decline into humanity is both achingly familiar and entertaining to observe. 
Directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel this triumphant Cinderella-esque story for theatre, Hand to God started Off-Broadway at the MCC Theatre, only to be enriched on the Broadway stage. Scenic design by Tony award winner Beowulf Borrit, Lighting Design by Jason Lyons, Costume Design by Sydney Maresca, Sound Design by Jill BC Du Boff, and Puppet Design by Marte Johanne Ekhougen. 
Philosophical, at times horror driven, intelligent, and all the while incredibly funny, Hand to God brings a rousing good time to the theatre stage

Review By: Aziza Seven 
Photos By: Joan Marcus

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