Review Roundup: MCC's HAND TO GOD
Last night, Robert Askins' Hand to God opened at the MCC Theater. Hand to God stars Steven Boyer who reprises his celebrated, Obie Award-winning performance from the EnsembleStudio Theatre (EST) in 2011. Boyer is joined in this brand new production by Tony Award nominee Marc Kudisch as well as Geneva Carr, Michael Oberholtzer, and Sarah Stiles. Hand to God is directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel.
In Hand to God, the good children of Cypress, Texas are taught to obey the Bible in order to evade Satan's hand. But when students at the Christian Puppet Ministry put those teachings into practice, one devout young man's puppet takes on a shocking personality that no one could have expected. In this hilarious and lightning-paced comedy, a foul-mouthed sock puppet named Tyrone soon teaches those around him that the urges that can drive a person to give in to their darkest desires fit like a glove.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Michael Dale, BroadwayWorld: Before you know it, it turns out that Askins' drama, as well as Jason's puppet, has some powerful teeth, and director Moritz von Stuelpnagel's serious-minded production will have the more squeamish playgoers averting their eyes at the bloody and desperate climax....It sure ain't Avenue Q.
Charles Isherwood, New York Times: It's a virtuosic performance - I would swear that, at times, Mr. Boyer isn't even moving his lips, ventriloquist-like - that never feels like a stunt, and it's both hilarious and heart-rending.
Michael Giltz, Huffington Post: Director Moritz von Stuelpnagel handles the transition from wild humor to genuine emotion with ease...He and the rest of the cast are why this show gets a generous three stars out of four. The play is original but flawed, though refinement should make it better with relative ease.
Linda Winer, Newsday: The irreverent puppetry in "Avenue Q" is kids' stuff compared with the devil-made-me-do-it depravities in "Hand to God," Robert Askins' wicked little satire that reopened at MCC Theater after three sold-out runs at Ensemble Studio Theater in 2011-12.
Elisabeth Vincentelli, NY Post: Directed with unflagging energy by Moritz von Stuelpnagel, the show moves at great speed... By the time "Hand to God" reaches its Grand Guignol finale, you're reeling from shock and laughter.
Jason Clark, Entertainment Weekly: If Avenue Q didn't appropriately sate your appetite for explicit puppet carnality, then Robert Askins' outrageous black comedy Hand to Godwill more than fit the bill. Two words: puppet motorboating (which has to be a theater first). But this marvelously unsettling play has more to offer than just raunch. If you read between the play's wonderfully frazzled lines, it becomes rather intense study of demonic influence and addiction.
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus