Hand to God BROADWAY REVIEWS

Photo: Joan Marcus
  • NY TIMES

  • VULTURE

  • HR

  • DAILY NEWS

  • AMNY

Opening Night:
April 7, 2015
Closing:
January 3, 2016

Theater: Booth Theatre / 222 West 45th Street, New York, NY, 10036

Synopsis: 

The good children of Cypress, Texas are taught to obey the Bible in order to evade Satan’s hand. But when students at the Christian Puppet Ministry put those teachings into practice, one devout young man’s puppet takes on a shocking personality that no one could have expected. In this hilarious and lightning-paced comedy, a foul-mouthed sock puppet named Tyrone soon teaches those around him that the urges that can drive a person to give in to their darkest desires fit like a glove.

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  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF Hand to God

    ‘Hand to God’ Features a Foul-Talking Puppet

    Charles Isherwood

    April 7, 2015: Stand down, Inspector Javert, vengeful foe of bread-snatchers. A more formidable villain now stalks the Broadway boards, one who makes you seem about as frightening as a French pastry. His name, Tyrone, is not the scariest handle, but he’s as ruthless as any dedicated evildoer, with a spectacularly foul mouth and a thirst for young flesh. Oh, and he’s also made of a gray sock, some felt and a fringe of fake fur. The terrible Tyrone is, in short, a hand puppet. If you imagine that to be merely a punch line, forget it. The fearsome critter, who takes possession of a troubled teenager’s left arm in Robert Askins’s darkly delightful play “Hand to God,” really inspires goose bumps as he unleashes a reign of terror on that teenager, Jason, and everyone in his orbit. But unlike the grim Javert, he’s also flat-out hilarious, spewing forth acid commentary that will turn those goose bumps into guffaws. “Hand to God” popped open on Tuesday at the Booth Theater like a cackling jack-in-the-box, scaring away (really) a couple of audience members at the performance I caught, but bringing peals of joy to most everyone else. In a Broadway season dominated by the usual fodder — musicals new and old, and a healthy serving of Important British Dramas — Mr. Askins’s black comedy about the divided human soul, previously seen in two separate Off Broadway runs, stands out as a misfit both merry and scary, and very welcome.

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  • VULTURE REVIEW OF Hand to God

    Hypocrites and a Vicious Sock Puppet in 'Hand to God'

    Jesse Green

    April 7, 2015: For centuries, theatrical antiheroes have vied for attention by going to extremes, but Tyrone, in Robert Askins’s "Hand to God," may be the first, onstage at least, to bite off an ear. He’s as violent and vengeful as Sweeney Todd, and, despite his evangelical upbringing, as comically foul-mouthed as any Mamet mook. (His voice combines the appetitive rumble of Cookie Monster with the sexual bravado of James Brown.) You can’t just write him off as psychotic, though, because that would suggest a framework of sanity from which he has departed. He is, rather, pure, untrammelled id, eternally evil and born that way, and thus psychologically unique in dramatic literature. Unique physically, too. He has big, vacant eyes, limbs like linguini, a shock of maraschino hair — and, oh, some guy’s arm up his back. Yes, he’s a sock puppet, and also, in what may be the apotheosis of color-blind casting, the gray-skinned star of Broadway’s unlikeliest new must-see play. I say “unlikeliest” in part because it’s the kind of intelligent, blood-dark comedy — disturbing as often as it is funny, vile as often as it is violent, and, to my mind, better for both — that would seem more at home in a small, subsidized venue patronized by locals. (Indeed, its road to the Booth began, in 2012, at the 99-seat Ensemble Studio Theatre, and seemed to reach its natural level in last year’s MCC Theater production at the 249-seat Lucille Lortel.) But "Hand to God" is also unlikely on its own terms, wherever it might run. For Tyrone is not just the alter ego of a troubled teen named Jason but a self-appointed spokesdemon for all humanity. We learn this right off, when he delivers, as a prologue, a potted history of morality, a blight that began when “some asshole” invented right and wrong. If this is civilization, he is its discontent.

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  • HOLLYWOOD REPORTER REVIEW OF Hand to God

    Blasphemy on Broadway? Amen to that.

    David Rooney

    April 7, 2015: Perhaps the most subversive creations of the long-running Broadway hit "Avenue Q" were the Bad Idea Bears, two cute, pastel-colored fluffy toys whose mission was to enable questionable behavior. Whether or not homage is intended, playwright Robert Askins has taken that concept several steps further with his wicked comedy "Hand to God," about a confused Christian teenager possessed by a demonic sock puppet named Tyrone. A scabrously funny scenario that steadily darkens into suspense and Grand Guignol horror, this fiery clash of the id, ego and superego is also an audacious commentary on the uses of faith, both to comfort and control us. Bold new American plays by unestablished dramatists too seldom make it to Broadway, so this commercially risky endeavor — a challenge approached head-on by producers in their amusing marketing campaign ­— is to be applauded. The show also brings a welcome breath of fresh air via a director, Moritz von Stuelpnagel, new to the commercial theater mainstream, and a talented ensemble of five actors, only one of whom, Marc Kudisch, is a Broadway regular. The sharp production has evolved over two hit off-Broadway incarnations, increasing in size with each move, and it now sits quite snugly in the still-intimate confines of the Booth Theatre.

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  • NEW YORK DAILY NEWS REVIEW OF Hand to God

    Steven Boyer devilishly good in Robert Askins' smart, funny, foul-mouthed comedy

    Joe Dziemianowicz

    April 7, 2015: The new Broadway comedy “Hand to God” is so ridiculously raunchy, irreverent and funny it’s bound to leave you sore from laughing. Ah, hurts so good. The plot of the pitch-black comedy by Robert Askins revolves around Jason, a sweet but traumatized teen with a dangerous BFF: Tyrone, a Satanic sock puppet. As in two earlier downtown runs of the show, Steven Boyer stars as Jason, and his acting and puppeteering are exceptional. Watching him do battle against his own dark side — Tyrone appears to yank him like a rag doll — is as good as physical comedy gets. It can’t be outdone — and shouldn’t be missed. Askins’ hometown Texas sets the scene. Needy Margery (an inspired Geneva Carr), an emotionally wobbly widow, props herself up by doing a bit of God’s work in a church basement. Her Christian Puppet Ministry teaches three adolescents dealing with rotten homes and raging hormones.

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  • AM NEW YORK REVIEW OF Hand to God

    'Hand to God' theater review

    Matt Windman

    April 7, 2015: "Hand to God" -- a dark, irreverent and smart comedy by the young, previously unknown playwright Robert Askins -- is one hell of a great success story, having graduated step by step from off Off-Broadway to Off-Broadway to finally Broadway itself. This is the kind of raw and raunchy play you don't typically see on Broadway, but once there ends up making Broadway a more exciting place. It brings to mind "Avenue Q," which also involved irreverent, foul-mouthed puppets. Yet despite how silly it gets, "Hand to God" is also a seriously disturbing portrait of an emotionally scarred mother and son who have spent so long suppressing their rage that it comes out in unpredictable and inappropriate ways. Jason (Steven Boyer), a sad and shy high school teen in Texas whose father recently died, has been enlisted by his enterprising mother (Geneva Carr) to take part in her fledgling church basement puppet theater -- the "Christian Puppet Ministry" -- along with a few other classmates including cool kid Timothy (Michael Oberholtzer) and girl next door Jessica (Sarah Stiles).

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