BWW Review: HAND TO GOD at Gablestage
The Craziness of the Banal
Robert Askins' brilliant play, HAND TO GOD, is set in a church basement in Cyprus, Texas "where the country meets the city" and where stereotypical characters are flipped inside out in horrifyingly hilarious fashion.
Lights up on a Punch and Judy's booth and sock puppet Tyrone leers forth, obscenely lecturing on the beginnings of man and The Devil.
And then the recently widowed, God crazed Margery is seeking solace teaching teenagers the art of puppetry. She's having little success with the local, clad in black, bad boy Timothy and the seemingly innocent Jessica. Her craven, overly mothered son, Jason, has completed his puppet but the others have not. The class must perform for the congregation the coming Sunday. They are not ready but the smarmily lonely Pastor insists. Sex, of course, is everywhere. The Pastor wants it, the bad boy gets it, and Jason and Jessica take a delightfully dirty trip around the world with their puppets.
Sock Puppet Tyrone, the star of the show, is on Jason's hand, and Jason, played by Wesley Slade is the super star. His command of the puppet and his physicality are masterful as is his voicing of Tyrone. Truth: Joe Adler's cast are all stars. Margery Lowe as Jason's mother, Margery, tormented by her frustrations and anger, breaks her small town respectability in almost terrifying fashion. The lonely Timothy, played by Kristian Bikic, is a posturing threat and his scenes with Margery bounce with violence. Jessica, Casey Sacco, is Jason's neighbor. He is in love with her and their ribald puppet consummation is an imaginative highlight. The quietly effective Stephen G. Anthony as Pastor Greg, lusts for Margery and struggles to defeat Tyrone's Satan.
Director Joseph Adler's touch is sure; HAND TO GOD, violent, fascinating, and funny is another stand out success for GableStage.
Lyle Baskin designed the church basement and Pastor Greg's office. Jeff Quinn lit the show and Matt Corey provided the sound and music. Costumes by Ellis Tillman and props by Beth Fath. All, as always at GableStage, exemplary.
Fight choreography by Paul Homza.
And a special huzzah to Paul Louis, puppet coach and fabricator.
HAND TO GOD runs through October 30 at GableStage at the Biltmore, 1200 Anastasia Avenue, Coral Gables. 305.445.1119. www.gablestage.org
Photo credit: George Schiavone