BWW Review: HAND TO GOD at Alliance Theatre
When you walk into the theatre at Dad's Garage, you see a stage that is littered with "Jesus Loves Me" decor, crafts and stuffed animals, setting the scene for a children's Bible study room. Front and center, a puppet theatre stands, while VeggieTales plays in the background. You know that this show has adult content but the elements in front of you are a little misleading, so you wait for the show to start. This is exactly what you feel walking into the ALLIANCE THEATRE's HAND TO GOD.
As for the show, it's ridiculously inappropriate and shamefully hilarious. It was a hit on Broadway, and it is safe to say that it is a hit for the Alliance as well. The Tony Award-winning regional theatre has been taking several of their shows "on the road," as their mainstage is undergoing renovations. (Currently, they are playing "Crossing Delancey" at the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta, "Beautiful Blackbird" in their black box space, and HAND TO GOD.)
With Marc Masterson, who serves as the artistic director of South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa, Calif., the Alliance has acquired a top-notch director for the show. Masterson recently produced the world premiere of "A Doll's House, Part 2" before its Broadway run. Under his direction, HAND TO GOD has been recreated with the same level of professionalism, and vulgarity, as when the show had its nine-month run on Broadway.
Leading the Masterson's cast is Ben Thorpe, who has recently been seen in several leading roles in the Atlanta area over the last year. However, this is the role that will win him a Suzi Bass nomination, and a win. Thorpe plays the character of Jason and Jason's demonic puppet, Tyrone, who essentially takes over the hand of Jason whenever he wants to come to life. In this performance, Thorpe shows the true versatility that it takes to be an actor as he maneuvers between the two characters.
Playing Jason's mom, Margery, is Wendy Melkonian. Margery is essentially the foundation of the show as she is the reason the storyline even exists. With that being said, Melkonian is brilliant. We see a million and one different emotions that the character is going through and every single one of them is brilliant.
The performance that intrigued me the most was Patrick Wade, playing the role of Timothy. Last seen as the leading principle in Horizon Theater's "Nobody Loves Me" (which received some pretty rocky reviews), I was uncertain how Wade would stand up in this particular show. I could not have been more impressed, though. The Gainesville Theatrical Alliance alum landed every single joke and made the character his own - a sexy, bad boy with a really loud mouth. I honestly do not remember this character from the Broadway show but I will not soon be forgetting Wade's performance.
Allan Edwards plays Pastor Greg, a character that makes you feel a little uncomfortable. Alexandra Ficken rounds out the cast as Jessica, the girl that Jason obviously has a crush on. Shout out to Ficken for taking the show's sex scene to another level. Spoiler alert: this moment in the play will make you will laugh so hard that you will indeed cry. Truman Griffin, Devon Hales, Jake Krakovsky, Lisa Whitmore and Trey York understudy.
Aside from the incredible acting, the Alliance spares no expense with the incredible set design. Details galore, the set is exactly what you would find in most Christian after-school settings. The stage also has multiple hidden walls that allow for a seamless change of scenery.
If the Alliance wants to continue to produce this caliber of show all over the city, I am all for it. #AllianceTheatreOnTheRoad