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Hand to God

  • Theater, Off Broadway
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

Time Out says

5 out of 5 stars

Hand to God. Lucille Lortel Theatre (see Off Broadway). By Robert Askins. Directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel. With Steven Boyer, Geneva Carr. Running time: 1hr 45mins. One intermission.

Hand to God: In brief

A trash-talking hand puppet takes charge of its shy Christian teenage handler (the brilliantly talented Steven Boyer) in Robert Askins's outrageous comedy, directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel. After acclaimed runs at the Ensemble Studio Theatre in 2011 and 2012, the production has been picked up by MCC for a higher-profile Off Broadway production.

Hand to God: Theater review by Adam Feldman

Idle hands may be the devil’s playground, as the adage goes, but the demonic puppet on the left mitt of Jason (Boyer) is a frenzy of destructive activity. Unlike the shy, sensitive Christian teen who ostensibly controls him, Tyrone is foulmouthed, raunchy and hyperaggressive—and increasingly hard to keep in check. After an especially violent incident, Jason’s pastor (Marc Kudisch, unctuously solicitous) and his car crash of a mother, Margery (a complexly sympathetic Carr), think an exorcism may be in order. “Are you the devil?” Jason asks Tyrone. The puppet retorts: “Are you?” That exchange cuts to the core of Robert Askins’s hilarious, wildly irreverent dark comedy. Is Jason possessed or finally free?

Behind its wired barbs of shock comedy—including puppet sex that makes Avenue Q look like Jane Austen—Hand to God is a smart, philosophically engaging character study with neo-Nietzschean overtones. It premiered in 2011 at the Ensemble Studio Theatre, and has been revived for MCC Theater with its major assets intact. Boyer, Carr and director Moritz von Stuelpnagel are now joined by Kudisch as well as Michael Oberholtzer and the wryly tangy Sarah Stiles as Jason’s peers. All are very good, but Boyer is flat-out sensational. Touchingly confused as Jason and scarily unhinged as Tyrone—often at the same time—Boyer gives one of the most memorable star turns I’ve ever seen. Curse yourself if you miss it: Talking to the hand has never been this good.—Theater review by Adam Feldman

THE BOTTOM LINE Askins’s dark comedy packs a wicked punch, and Boyer is a wonder.

Follow Adam Feldman on Twitter: @FeldmanAdam

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