Hand to God, playing at Melbourne’s Alex Theatre, has been described as one of Broadway’s filthiest and funniest shows.
It’s an apt description. The show is at times very rude, crude, dark and sacrilegious. Yet there are many laugh-out loud scenes.
Hand to God premiered off-Broadway in 2011 before successfully being transferred to Broadway in 2015. It has been nominated for five Tony Awards, including Best Play. This new Australian production features a local cast.
Hand to God tells of a teenager called Jason, who lives in a small conservative town in Texas. Grieving after the death of his father and experiencing sexual feelings typical of his age, Jason is a member of his mother, Margery’s, amateur puppetry group at the local church. Other members of the group are Jessica, whom Jason fancies, and Timothy who has a huge crush on the stressed Margery.
There’s a great deal of tension within the group which only becomes worse when Jason’s puppet, the lewd and very crude Tyrone, `takes over’ Jason’s arm.
Tyrone wreaks havoc for everyone in sight, including the church’s pastor Greg, who like Timothy, fancies Margery. The question is who is controlling Tyrone – the troubled Jason or is Tyrone indeed the devil?
Descriptions given by critics such as ‘Sesame Street meets The Exorcist’ and `the love child of Avenue Q and the Book of Mormon’ are spot on!
The Australian cast does a great job in bringing the characters to life, especially Gyton Grantely who plays Jason and voices Tyrone. It’s hard to believe Grantley is not a professional puppeteer.
He expertly portrays both the shy and confused Jason and the confident and fiendish Tyrone. Vocally he clearly establishes the two characters while his actions bring Tyrone `to life’.
Alison Whyte gives an equally polished performance as the erratic, confused, emotionally challenged and sexually charged Margery. Grant Piro shows his great comic timing, expertly portraying Pastor Greg’s pompousness and awkwardness along with his desire for Margery. His actions are equivalent to many words.
The three experienced actors are well supported by Morgana O’Reilly as Jessica. Her puppetry work as Tyrone’s ‘sex interest’ is very memorable! Jake Speer is believable as the very horny Timothy.
Given a story-line which includes inappropriate sex between adults, explicit sex between puppets, extremely `colorful’ language and a few `bloody’ scenes, this black comedy isn’t for everyone. But if you want to see a very talented cast bringing to life an unusual and entertaining show, then Hand to God is well worth considering.
*Photo credit: Angel Leggas
Jenny Burns attended a March 4 production of Hand to God as a guest of the producers.
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