BWW Review: HAND TO GOD at Eastline Theatre
Had we known sooner about the Eastline Theatre in Wantagh, we would have made multiple trips to see their hilarious production of "Hand To God" by Robert Askins. The intimate and quaint space recently housed Broadway's Tony Award nominated comedy and the venue appears to be Long Island's best kept secret tucked away on Wantagh Avenue.
"Hand To God" is certainly no muppet show. Just when you think a Texan church puppet club is doing some good and keeping kids off the streets and drugs, trouble ensues as a teenager's puppet takes on a life of its own. Jason recently lost his father and his recently widowed mother runs his puppet club. Jason and two other club members, Timothy and Jessica, are quirky teenagers with typical growing pains. Horny teen Timothy has a crush on Jason's mother and holy moly, so does the church's Pastor Greg!
One would assume a puppet club would be a blessed event at the church and that everything would go rather smoothly yet when Jason's puppet Tyrone takes a turn for the worse and announces that he is Satan, hell literally breaks loose. Destruction, deception, and danger plow through the Texan town and just when the church is about to crumble, Pastor Greg steps in to save the day. With blood, sweat, tears and eventually an exorcism, Tyrone gets what's coming to him and Jason and his mother seek the help they desperately need.
Kyle Mahoney as Jason and Tyrone was simply outstanding. He brilliantly shifted between the innocent sweet church boy to the demonic devil with the greatest of ease. At times, it was quite scary how Mahoney manipulated the puppet as if it was actually alive and ready to kill. Between his impeccable acting chops and magical puppeteering, Mahoney gave the best performance of the Long Island theater season!
Julie Fergus as Jason's mother was over the top as well. With a great character to play to begin with, Ms. Fergus did it justice. She turned the seriousness of keeping it together after family trauma into blissful hilarity. Joe Boccia Jr. independently brought endless laughter as the teenager infatuated with her and when sparring with Ms. Fergus, the two of them rocked the casbah with endless laughter.
Jessica played by the great Liz Jeffrey was another marvel who kept the laughs coming all evening with her calm disposition and hopeful hopelessness. Finally, Anthony Noto who recently dazzled us in "Camelot" plays Pastor Greg. Serving as the biblical helping hand without cracking a smile, Pastor Greg honestly just wanted the church to flourish and never expected anything like this to occur. With a smooth demeanor full of southern charm and a mountain of molasses in his lap, the sweet and sensitive Mr. Noto played it as a true gentleman.
After the audience was doubled over from laughing fits and perfect Texas twang, we were able to commend director John Torres for expertly directing a marvelous production. He explained how the Eastline Theatre chooses productions with a "funky" edge and how a successful show is all about the casting. Not only was the cast of "Hand To God" impeccable, but the production also showcased some of the best performers on Long Island. Whether he's acting or puppeteering in the future, look out for new sensation Kyle Mahoney in future productions and bookmark the Eastline Theatre in Wantagh immediately. We look forward to many more future fabulous productions to come!
Starring: Kyle Mahoney, Julie Fergus, Liz Jeffery, Joe Boccia Jr. and Anthony Noto.
Directed by John Torres, Stage Manager Bridget Lacova, Puppet Design Kyle Mahoney, Lighting Design Chris Damp and Daniel Higgins, Costumes and Props Lyn Ciorciari, and Set Construction Jess Barenzano, Chris Damp and Robert E. Higgins.
Hand to God played its final performance. For more information on the EastLine Theatre please visit: www.eastlineproductions.com or call: 516-749-5047