BWW Review: HAND TO GOD at Wayward Actors

BWW Review: HAND TO GOD at Wayward ActorsClare Hagan, John C. Collins, and Sean Fannin in Hand to God. Photo courtesy Greg Collier.

Hand to God

by Robert Askins

Directed by Jeff Mangum

Review by Taylor Clemons

Entire contents copyright © 2018 Taylor Clemons. All rights reserved.

Possession has been a part of pop culture since stories going back to the exorcist. Mostly and generally found in the horror genre. Wayward Actors is trying it's hand with the possession plot in their new production, Hand to God. While Hand to God deals with possession, it does it from a black comedy standpoint. Riddled with humor and hard truths about religion along the way.

Hand to God first premiered Off-Broadway in 2011, then again in 2014. In 2015 the show made the leap to the big leagues on Broadway, and garnered critical acclaim, and five Tony Nominations.

The story of Hand to God focuses on Jason, a teenage boy who has recently lost his father and his mother Margery. Both are finding their own ways to deal with the grief one inherits while mourning a loved one. Margery throws herself into church volunteer work, creating a puppet ministry in which students tell stories from the bible using puppets. Also in the class is juvenile delinquent Timothy, and the quirky and odd Jessica. As frustrations between Jason and his mother brew Jason's sock puppet, Tyrone becomes more than a cute gimmick, turning Jason's world upside down. The same frustrations cause Margery to make questionable choices that may lead to grave consequences.

Leading the cast as both Jason and Tyrone is Sean Fannin. While is work as Jason as admirable, his duel scenes as Jason AND Tyrone are where he really shines. Switching back and fourth between them seamlessly is truly something the behold, as he simultaneously creates two very different and interesting characters. His performance is nothing short of extraordinary. As Margery, Jennifer Starr steals every scene with her specific brand of high camp comedy, but balances these moments with occasional gut wrenching truths about what her character is going through.

John C. Collins does great as Timothy, kid who's fallen through the cracks. He lands some fantastic one liners with blunt force, but occasionally pulls back the veil to show that like everyone, he's hurting due to the nature of his own home life. Clare Hagan does a fine job with Jessica. Her deadpan humor is great for the role, and while she doesn't have a ton to do, definitely leaves a great impression. Lastly, Greg Collier as Pastor Greg (what a coincidence right?) is nerdy and needy as the lonely leader of the church with eyes for Margery. With little stage time, you still can't help but feel sorry for Pastor Greg's specific plight.

Jeff Mangum's direction and casting was spot on. The relationships he helped develop onstage are palpable. The depth in which he was able to take these characters is nothing short of extraordinary. The set while basic and reliant on projections is simple, but managers to accurately serve the story.

The show is very well written. Described by critics as what would happen if Avenue Q and The Book of Mormon had a baby, they're not far off. Askins takes familiar type characters and uses them to weave a fantastical story that ultimately reminds us that there's lingering darkness inside of us all, no matter how put together we may seem.

Hand to God is one of the best american comedies to be written in the last couple years, and it's Louisville debut proves why. If you're not easily offended, and you enjoy a raunchier brand of comedy, I wholeheartedly recommend this show. It's a fun night out and a show you'll be talking about long after the cast takes their bows.

Hand to God

August 17 and 18 at 7:30pm

August 19 at 5:00 pm.

Tickets $18 available at thebardstown.com

Wayward Actors Company

At The Bard's Town

1801 Bardstown Road

Louisville, KY 40204

(502) 749-5275

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From This Author Taylor Clemons

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