Hand To God by Robert Askins at the Generic Theatre is a must-see. It is outrageous, riveting, irreverent and uproarious. But do not go if you are offended by blasphemy, profanity and overt sexual material. However, if you like excellent art and excellent comic dramas then this is the play for you.
Hand To God was first produced Off-Broadway in 2011 and 2014, Askins’ sassy, shocking comedy eventually premiered on Broadway the following year, where it was nominated for five Tony Awards, including Best Play.
The play begins with a puppet show and it is here that we meet Tyrone and then very quickly we are taken to the next scene. The second scene is where we meet three teens in a basement classroom located in a church somewhere in Cypress, Texas,
Photo Credits belong to Tina Revazi
The three teens are the troubled Jason (Brendan Hoyle who is fantastic as both Jason and Tryone), nerdy Jessica (amazingly played by Ginakay Howell) and the bully Timothy (convincingly played by Luke Scaros)
The teens are being tutored in religious studies by Margery (a stellar performance by Sylvie Green Shapiro). We learn that Margery is a widow and along with her son Jason is grieving the loss of her husband. Puppets are used as a type of therapy for the teens and for Margery.
Events progress as Tyrone takes over Jason’s life and his will. Tyrone, seemingly only a hand puppet, decides to show them all who is in charge. Pastor Greg (a solid performance by Brian Nedvin) has designs on Margery but she rebuffs him and still he wants more from her. This fast paced play has a lot of x-rated material that may cause you to blush and feel the heat, especially the puppet scene between Jason and Jessica. But you owe it to yourself to see this play. One of my favorite scenes was the novel way of performing “Who’s On First” originally performed by Abbott and Costello.
There are several messages or ruminations that one can perceive with this play. There are questions of how one should deal with grief and the difficulty of losing a loved one. How does one deal with loneliness? How do we overcome the fear of a bully? Lastly, how can we learn about our inner-selves so that we find love and be in control of our destiny?
The technical aspects of this show were exceptional. Matt Friedman’s set is one that rotates allowing us to be in the classroom, the pastor’s office, Jason’s bedroom ,and in a car, as well as the side of the church building. The props- Loretta M. Dunn must have had an army to assist in finding all the items. The sound by Charles Owrey is very fitting and we hear every valuable word that Askins brought to the page. Katelyn Jackson and Staci Murawski’s costumes and Alex Mason’s lighting along with the puppet design by Margaret Cheney complete the picture that might be thought of as “Sesame Street meets the Exorcist”.
Big thumbs up for Hand To God at the Generic Theatre.
Generic Theatre “Hand To God” by Robert Askin through permissions granted by Dramatist Play Service, New York. Performances take place at Generic Theatre, June 22 – July 15 . Get more info, prices, and purchase tickets here or by calling 757-441-2160