Plays as gleefully rebellious and officious brazen as Robert Askins’ Hand To God usually stay in their hole-in-the-wall 50-seat theatres until their cult followings are no longer clever adequate to keep their decrepit venues from being bought out by CVS or Starbucks, so it’s a singular and smashing thing to see executive Moritz von Stuelpnagel’s aggressively punk production, that started during a 99-seat Ensemble Studio Theatre and was afterwards plunked by MCC into Off-Broadway’s Lortel, now gracing Shubert Alley.
Sporting a same expel and pattern as a play’s Off-Broadway run, Hand To God’s discomforting summary that integrity is not in humankind’s organic inlet comes off even stronger now and it’s sparkling to see such a “downtown” uncover send to a Main Stem so smoothly.
The initial grounds that a shy, introverted Christian teenager’s sock puppet seems to have been hexed by a hard-truth spewing demon competence lead we to trust you’re in for a night of silly, maybe a tiny campy, irreverent fun.
And sure, when we’re initial introduced to Tyrone, who lives on immature Texan Jason’s (Steven Boyer) left forearm, his scurrilous nastiness, resisting with his nonsensical appearance, sets us adult for an interesting Exorcist-style satire.
But that’s a comforting commencement that lulls we in. Before we know it, it turns out that Askins’ drama, as good as Jason’s puppet, has some absolute teeth. Though uproariously humorous during times, a serious-minded prolongation will have a some-more nice playgoers averting their eyes during a bloody and unfortunate climax.
Jason’s mom, Margery (excellent Geneva Carr), who was recently widowed, leads a tiny church seminar scheming teenagers to put together a religiously-themed puppet show. Though she tries to keep a mature and important demeanor, her libido has been sent off-kilter by a passionate advances of cocky child Timothy (Michael Oberholtzer) and her supervisor, Pastor Greg (Marc Kudisch, balancing frankness and creepiness).
Though Jason has feelings for his smart, artistic friend, Jessica (comically passionless Sarah Stiles), he doesn’t locate her courtesy until impressing her with a bit of “Who’s On First?” But is Jason operative alone, or is Tyron some-more of a partner?
The answer becomes transparent when a puppet commits a extraordinary act of assault on Timothy, boring a repelled Jason behind him. Boyer’s performance, that warranted him an Obie Award, is not usually considerable for his ability to communicate a apparition that Tyrone is a apart and wild entity, though a outspoken and earthy subdivision between his dual characters is sharp, quick and exacting.
Though a stage where Jessica introduces Tyrone to her strong womanlike puppet and a dual teenagers have a critical speak about their feeling while their cloth partners rivet in mixed and flattering striking passionate positions is utterly memorable, Boyer’s opening of Jason’s final fight with a demon is a chilling, corner of your chair moment, inspiring gasps instead of laughs.
In sequence for Broadway to severely explain itself to be a heart of American theatre, some-more plays like this need to be constructed there regularly. Hollywood stars and cocktail song icons might move in a crowds, though zero beats good writing, brave ideas and vital attitude.