BWW Review: Satan Never Seemed Funnier at Generation Production's HAND TO GOD

BWW Review: Satan Never Seemed Funnier at Generation Production's HAND TO GOD

Puppets in shows are always a recipe for a good time. Who doesn't love Audrey II in LITTLE SHOP, or all of AVENUE Q? Then there is HAND TO GOD, a play that hit Broadway in 2015 and notably starred Bob Saget for a bit. It's raunchy, it's laugh out loud funny, and it's got a great cast, which makes for a crazy night out.

HAND TO GOD takes place in a small Texas town, where the church is a staple for community members. At his church, Pastor Greg directs widowed Margery to run the puppet club and hopes to see a performance by the club in front of the whole congregation. Well there are teenagers in the club, including Margery's son, Jason, and as you can imagine things don't go as planned. Not at all actually, especially when one of the puppets becomes possessed. The plot is outlandish, but rooted in church humor.

This show was exactly what I needed and for what that's worth, it was laugh out loud dark comedy. The teen stereotypes were a perfect fit for this type of play. The puppets were hysterical and now I want one.

I enjoyed Rebecca Fisher's performance as Margery. On paper, the character seems pretty cut and dry, but Margery is anything but. Fisher is great at expressing her roller coaster of emotions. And when it comes to getting what she wants, she is fearless. I found myself rooting for her character and empathizing with her hurt. Fisher brings the audience to the edge without falling over. It's a great performance.

Jerry J. Jobe, Jr. is great at Jason, but amazing as Tyrone. Jobe is a really good puppeteer, he switches flawlessly between the two characters and you almost forget that he is really talking to himself. Jobe as Jason is a sweet kid just trying to figure out life, but Tyrone is such a badass. I love Tyrone and need a puppet like him in my life.

Jason Blackwater as Pastor Greg is the sensible person needed to round out the insanity that happens on stage. He is a genuine and consistent throughout the show. Also in the cast are Devan Seaman as Jessica/Jolene and Andrew Romano as Timothy. As Jessica, Devan is sweet and owns the awkward teenage role well. As Jolene, well, I wonder how her arm doesn't get tired. (You'll get it once you see it.) Andrew as Timothy is a sight to be seen. Though his character channels the inner primate, Timothy's role in HAND TO GOD is to be the temptor/bully, which Andrew does well.

Where the production flopped was the pacing and the scene transitions. What should have been a 90 minute show with a 15 minute intermission ran a little over two hours because the scene transitions took forever. The audience sat awkwardly in the dark while the four person crew worked to place set pieces and props. These transitions broke the flow of the show and the do-gooder in me wanted to go up and help end the struggle.

Most of HAND TO GOD takes place in the basement of the church, but there is also a short scene in Jason's bedroom. The three set pieces manually rotated to fill the stage. The pieces were built awkwardly and was definitely part of the problem for transitioning. While I'm sure it was a great idea on paper, it did not really work for the space or perhaps they just need four more stagehands to assist with rotating the set.

At one point the audience was left watching pieces of the set fall apart or swing open. Sometimes the timing seemed oddly intentional, other times it just distracting. I am sure these issues will be resolved moving forward, but it just was not as well put together as hoped. Still HAND TO GOD is a great play and definitely entertaining. Sometimes you just need a good laugh as you watch sock puppets have extreme sex. Seriously.

HAND TO GOD runs at the Alexis and Jim Pugh Theater at the Dr. Phillips Center from now until October 22. This show has a mature audience warning for good reason. Leave the kids at home for this one. For tickets and more information visit https://www.drphillipscenter.org/events/tickets/2017/hand-to-god/.

Photo credit: Patty Wolfe

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