Review by Sandi Durell
Things haven’t changed much from the off Broadway productions of “Hand to God” for the foul-mouthed hand puppet Tyrone, the alter-ego of the angry, dysfunctional and shy Jason (Steven Boyer) in the little Texas town of Cypress where he lives with his widowed emotional wreck of a mother Margery (Geneva Carr), other than the fact that the dark irreverent comedy is ensconced now on Broadway at the Booth Theatre, seemingly more saucy than ever.
They’re all trying to get it together in the church basement where Mom is running a “Christian Puppet Ministry” (dubbed as the Christketeers) at the behest of Pastor Greg (Marc Kudisch – who is putting his own moves on Margery), as a way to channel her mourning after the death of her husband who, apparently, had some serious eating disorders.
The problems are just too great to overcome when Tyrone becomes Jason’s violent alter-ego, taking over and wreaking havoc on everyone around, including the high-libido teen Timothy (Michael Oberholtzer) as well as the apple of Jason’s eye, Jessica (Sarah Stiles).
It all blows up when Timothy (who thinks he’s in love with Margery) wins his way with her in a torrid sex scene in the basement, overturning chairs and breaking things apart as they disappear into the bathroom.
Pastor Greg is shocked, so is son Jason who expresses his anger thru toothy Tyrone, the little Satanic hand sock in so many vile, yet humorous ways as he bites off Timothy’s ear in a bloody mess of a scene that has the audience roaring with laughter. It’s all in the timing (spot-on direction by Moritz von Stuelpnagel) and the dialog written by Robert Askins, based on his own experiences as he puts his message on the table, labeling Christianity as a ‘puppet show.’ That’s one man’s opinion.
Things get even hotter when Jessica climbs thru the basement window with her own sexy little hand puppet Jolene, offering psychiatric assist, making that little urchin sexually available to Tyrone who takes full advantage of the opportunity in a Kama Sutra kinda way. And we thought the audience laughed uncontrollably before?
Steven Boyer’s puppet artistry seems to have risen to new levels of skill as he alternates between voices in an award-winning performance. Although Jason is still supposed to be a 15 year old teen, it seems that Boyer has taken on a more mature look.
The easy-turn-around room changes from basement to office work seamlessly thru Beowulf Boritt’s scenic design with lighting by Jason Lyons and sound by Jill BC Du Boff.
There’s a lot of sight gags and knowing glances in this dark, dark comedy that has many serious overtones and messages made more poignant in our more disheveled world.
See it at your own risk! It continues open ended at the Booth Theatre, 222 West 45 Street, running time: 2 hours with intermission.
Photos: Joan Marcus