★★★★★ - Irresistible
There’s no funnier play about family dysfunction than Robert Askins’ “Hand to God.” It’s irreverent, it’s sometimes filthy, but it’s downright laugh-out-loud funny. You’ve got to have the right actor with the right talents to pull this off.
You’ll get no spoilers from me, other than to say Director Troy Heard has done an excellent job of helming this project and, if he didn’t have this actor in his back pocket before announcing this production, he certainly found a gem in Andrew Young.
Young plays the role of Jason, a young man experiencing such deep emotional pain that his constant companion is his foul-mouthed puppet, Tyrone. The way Young brings both characters to life with different voices, attitudes, and expressions is nothing short of amazing. At one point, the conversation between Jason and Tyrone moved so fast you wondered how the actor managed to keep them completely separated and perfectly timed. But he did.
The supporting cast is as talented and kept apace of the action as Jason lost all control over this alter-ego. Pietra Sardelli, as Jason’s mother, Margery, adeptly moved through transitions. Every muscle in her body, every vocal expression, brought every bit of pathos needed to propel the play, and brings plenty of laughs along the way.
Myles Lee as Timmy, a young rebellious youth, bellowed, threatened, bullied, and wooed Margery. Myles stomps around the stage with anger and pain written in every move. His ability to soften when needed brought the character a three-dimensional quality that made him likable despite the overarching personality.
The innocent Jessica, the love interest for Jason, is played by Breon Jenay. Jessica is coy and sweet until… And Jenay played it to the hilt as she operated and voiced Jolene, the other featured puppet in a perfect match-up of abilities.
Josh Sigal rounds out the cast as Pastor Greg. Sigal did a credible job. He kept up with his powerhouse castmates without getting lost in the shuffle, and that’s saying something.
For all the antics, there are some serious themes addressed here; loss through death, religion, and, of course, sex. Heard has done a superb job in this important balancing act by retaining the more somber portions of the script, never dragging things down too far to easily revive the comedy. Though the sound was the tiniest bit overbearing at times, drowning out dialogue, production values were all there, from costumes to props, and lights. Pay attention after the intermission. There is an excellent set change brought about to hilarious detail.
This may not be for everyone. It is certainly PG-14. But, if you like your statements wrapped up in fun, this production is a gift. The talents of Young and Jenay alone are worth the price of admission.
What: Hand to God
When: Thursday - Saturday 8pm; Sundays 5pm through April 15
Where: Majestic Repertory Theatre, 1217 South Main St.
Tickets: $22 - $25 (www.majesticrepertory.com)
Producer: Majestic Repertory Theatre; Director: Troy Heard; Scenic Design: Tennessee Spelmane; Lighting Design: Jody Caley; Costume Design: Coral Benedetti; Prop Design: Armando Macias, Jr.; Puppet Design: RuBen Permel, Heidi Rider (Tyone), Emma Hunt (Jolene); Stage Managers: Coral Benedetti