Hand To God

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By Robert Askins.

Directed by Gary Griffin.

At Victory Gardens Theater, Chicago.

Hilarious satire of Southern religious beliefs is a non-stop laugh fest.

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The Lutherans of Cypress, Texas in Pastor Greg’s (Eric Slater) church have established an after-school practicing Christian Puppet Ministry. Margery (Janelle Snow) runs the Ministry as therapeutic exercise in grieving¬† for her dead husband. She has three puppet students: the nerdy Jessica (Nina Ganet), the rebellious Timothy (Curtis Edward Jackson), and Magery’s grieving son Jason/Tyrone (Alex Weisman),¬† These four interact on several levels. Only Jessica and Jason have puppets, Timothy is at the Ministry because he has the ‘hots’ for Margery. Pastor Greg meets with Margery to see how the Puppet program is going. He also is trying to court Margery who rejects his advances.

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As Jason and Jessica flirt via their puppets, we realize that Jason’s hand puppet, Tryone, seems to have a life and personality of his own. Tyrone’s uncontrollable behavior forces Jason into anti-social and anti-religious rants. We see that Tyrone could be the devil in the form of a hand puppet!

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in a series of wildly hilarious physical scenes, we witness sheer bedlam including raunchy puppet sex from Jessica’s puppet and Tyrone; Timothy and Margery having passionate sex plus Tyrone going on a devil-possessed rant!¬† Tyrone is a satanic sock puppet who literally takes over Jason and the ministry.

This manically paced comedy is fueled by grief and dysfunctional family relations yet it is one of the cleverest and witty comedies in years! Alex Weisman gives a tour de force performance as Jason/Tyrone, Who knew that Weisman could manipulate his hand puppet with such spot-on timing and change voices instantly between Jason and Tyrone. Add his deft physicality and we have a fabulous comic performance. Weisman can add comic performer (and puppeteer) to his resume. (Puppet Designer Rachel Christianson’s Tyrone reminds me of Kurmet but with longer arms.)

Playwright Robert Askins weaves comedy into his scathing satire of fundamental Christian beliefs while adding a twist on the grieving process. This is a funny, well staged comedy that features fine work by the entire cast. Janrlle Snow and Curtis Edward Jackson were also most effective. This is one of the best shows Victory Gardens Theater has mounted in years!

Highly Recommended.

Tom Williams.

Date Reviewed: October 1, 2016.

Jeff Recommended.

For more info checkout the Hand To God page at theatreinchicago.com.

At Victory Gardens Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln, Chicago, IL, call 773-871-3000, www.victorygardens.org, tickets $15 – $50, Tuesdays at 7:30 pm, Wednesdays at 2 & 7:30 pm, Thursdays – Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Saturday & Sunday matinees at 3 pm, running time is 95 minutes with intermission, through October 23, 2016.

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