Rating: 4/5 stars
"You're just scared of being gay" "Oh yeah? Well see if you can taste the gay when I nut in your mouth!" WOW! What? We all laugh and look nervously at each other in the audience. Can they really say that on Broadway? Well they just did so I guess we'll keep going. That feeling was sort of the theme of the evening. Hilarious, but taking no prisoners. I attended Hand to God this past Monday night during their last preview before opening on Tuesday to AMAZING reviews. Now, before you go and get offended, this quote was from a troubled bad-boy teen at a church to one of the teen girls. And if you think teenagers aren't saying stuff like this...all the time...then you're in a delusion.
Before even seeing this play I was a fan. It's an entirely new play, not an adaptation, it's a new playwright, and it has no stars (similar description to Something Rotten which surprise surprise is with the same producer). Although I had heard it was with a foul-mouthed puppet, which Avenue Q originated, and I wasn't sure if it would still hold as much humor. But what Avenue Q set up, Hand to God hit out of the park. And really, the puppet, named Tyrone, wasn't the one always saying/doing the worst things...which I think was part of the playwright's point.
The play is set in rural Texas in a small Lutheran church. And let me just say that being from rural Florida, I have grown to love the southern accent and the way southerners say things that sound nice but are actually incredibly insulting (Friday Night Lights anyone?). Also, as a Methodist born and raised, I can appreciate all the ridiculousness that comes with southern Christians. The mother, Margery, is running a Jesus puppet group at church with her socially-awkward son Jason, the apathetic but cute Jessica, and the troubled bad-boy Timmy. From there things just start to get crazy. Tyrone, the puppet, starts to get a voice of his own and in a damaging way sticks up for Jason when Jason won't stick up for himself. Margery, after the recent death of her husband, gets fed up with being good and nice and let's just say a little bit of BDSM gets involved. Tyrone eventually completely goes off the deep end and Jason has to come to terms with who he's been and who he wants to be. Steven Boyer as Jason and Tyrone is INCREDIBLE. He switches voices between the two so quickly that you honestly forget that it's not two separate people. He absolutely will get nominated for this performance.
I think what was so refreshing about this play is that the playwright, Robert Askins, completely ignored all taboos and just said and did whatever he wanted to. There are so many shows out there that are so fluffy and you can almost predict what the characters are going to say and do. This show has you fear for each scene because you almost can't watch what's going to come next. As an example, there's a scene near the end of act two that I think most audience members watched from behind theirs hands. The only problem I see with this show is that since the characters and plot are so blunt and crazy, you sort of lose the message. I think Askins was trying to send a bigger message behind all of it and I personally left feeling like I just grasped the tip of the moral iceberg. There's something there with the devil and how he causes us to seek and appreciate the good and something with how we sacrifice the best one of us to then cause everlasting guilt? I'm not sure, it's definitely there, I just couldn't put it together.
I don't necessarily see this show lasting very long just because it has a very specific audience and definitely won't attract tourists. However if this review interested you at all then I would highly recommend seeing it.
Who should see this show:
- Young adults
- People who liked Avenue Q, Book of Mormon, South Park
- If you're in the mood to laugh and be shocked
How to get tickets:
- It has been showing up on tdf.org for $39
- $67 Mezzanine seats: https://www.telecharge.com/Broadway/Hand-to-God/Ticket
- $55 Rear Mezz seats: http://www.playbill.com/club/offer_detail/hand-to-god
- $27 Rush tickets on day of performance at the box office