|HAND TO GOD - Jake Speer, Grant Piro, Gyton Grantley, credit Angel Leggas|
Monday, 26 February 2018
Hand to God, Feb 24, 2018 ***1/2
by Robert Askins
at Alex Theatre, St Kilda, until March 18, 2018
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Feb 24, 2018
Review also published in Herald Sun Lifestyle online on Mon Feb 26, 2018 & later in print.
Beware! When a foul-mouthed, blasphemous hand puppet takes possession of a shy, Texan teenager in Robert Askins' play, Hand to God, the stage becomes a dangerous and irreverent place.
Askins' demented, Tony-nominated, black comedy mates Avenue Q-style, mischievous puppets with religious hypocrisy, then crossbreeds that with The Exorcist.
Gary Abrahams' production exploits the outrageous, laugh-out-loud comedy that depicts a church, puppetry workshop that goes terribly wrong when Jason's (Gyton Grantley) delinquent puppet, Tyrone, starts exhibiting demonic behaviour.
The first half is particularly funny as Grantley's geeky, immature Jason begins expressing his repressed alter ego through his wicked puppet, and Jason’s seemingly prim mother, Marjery, played with wild relish by Alison Whyte, reveals her uncontrollable, sexual appetite.
Grantley's performance is hilariously complex as he almost turns himself inside out shifting voice, tone and attitude in a nanosecond to switch between timid Jason and brash, crude Tyrone.
Grant Piro brings his impeccable timing and characterisation to Pastor Greg who tilts from pious, pompous churchman to Marjery's desperately needy but manipulative admirer.
Jake Speer as randy teenager, Timothy, and Morgana O’Reilly as the deceptively quiet Jessica, complete this totally bonkers, puppetry club.
The second half descends into comic chaos, violence and lurid, puppet-sex scenes, but the hectic pace lacks dynamic range, the comedy becomes hysterical and the rhythm feels a bit out of control.
Rather oddly by the very end, the hilarious havoc transforms into a morality play, and the slightly preachy ending dilutes the earlier comedy.
Hand to God is a funny and sacrilegious production and, if you don't take offence at spinning crucifixes or lewd, simulated human or puppet sex on stage, you'll find it divertingly subversive.
By Kate Herbert