By: Sandi Durell
In Robert Askins’ dark comedy, “Hand to God,” currently at MCC Theater’s Lucille Lortel, we’re greeted by a grey sock, with red stringy hair, hand puppet who immediately imparts his words of wisdom “ Right is for all of us, wrong is just for you!” Think “Avenue Q” but don’t get caught there because the boundaries are way extended.
The young teenagers are working on putting on a Jesus show with their puppets in the basement of a Church somewhere in Texas (where the country meets the city), being run by Margery (an excellently crazed yet fragile Geneva Carr) who has recently lost her husband. At the rehearsal is Timothy (an ornery testosterone driven Michael Oberholtzer), a sweet, yet sad, knowing Jessica (just ripe to be picked on Sarah Stiles) and Margery’s shy, removed son Jason (a struggling with demons Steven Boyer). And there’s Pastor Greg (a perfectly cast Marc Kudisch) who would like to be Margery’s shoulder to lean on and more.
Yes, we all have two faces – the one we show in public and sometimes that other one with the little guy who sits on your shoulder telling you to do or say monstrous things. In this case, that little guy is the grey sock puppet that becomes attached to Jason’s arm and his name is Tyrone – Jason’s alter ego. Jason would love to make a pass at Jessica, he’d like to be able to let his mother know the thoughts he hides beneath his timid exterior – but he can’t. However, Tyrone can and does in the foulest of mouths as he takes hold of Jason and insinuates his volatile demonic influences on him. Why, Pastor Greg, thinking Jason is possessed, is ready to perform an exorcism, but it’s Jessica who saves the day when she appears with her sultry, sexy blond bombshell hand puppet as she and Jason stand by emotionless as their puppets engage in a sexual encounter with no holds barred that will have you roaring.
While Mom is working out her own demons, winding up having torrid sex with Michael (who likes to break things), Tyrone pushes Jason to the breaking point that eventually becomes a bloody mess. There’s no doubt that Boyer’s performance as Jason and the swiftness with which he moves Tyrone and gutturally voices him, is multi-award worthy.
What we’re imbued with are the writer’s thoughts on dysfunction, religion’s part in society and the age old blame game.
Moritz von Stuelpnagel continues his quick paced direction that began at Ensemble Studio Theatre when he first directed this play in 2011.
The folding set by Beowulf Boritt morphs cleverly from cinder block basement to bedroom to office aided by Jason Lyons lighting design.
This is one of the season’s most daring and creative black comedies to hit off-Broadway. It is just devilishly funny! Congratulations to a spectacular cast and playwright!
*Photos: Joan Marcus
“Hand to God” continues thru March 30th. Running time 1 hr. 50 min. (1 intermission). 866-811-4111, www.mcctheater.org Lucille Lortel 121 Christopher St, West Village