Thursday, July 14, 2016

HAND TO GOD
AT THE STUDIO THEATRE 


No one goes away empty handed from Hand to God.

Studio Theatre’s production of the five time Tony nominated Broadway show is set in its natural habit—a small Southern town’s church basement.   It is an unexpected surprise to step in to the theater and see it re-fashioned with  pale yellow cinderblock wall  lined with religious posters.   Mount Logan Lutheran Church of Cypress, Texas, looked so familiar.  

The plot is simple  enough—Margery (Susan Rome) is a recent widow trying to stage a puppet show, with her son Jason and his puppet Tyrone (Liam Fore, both roles).   Pastor Greg (Tim Getman) and  a delinquent teenager Timothy  (Ryan McBride) both have the hots for her.  Jason wants to go out with Jessica (Caitlin Collins)  who is in a verbal war with Timothy.  

Like a three ring circus— the main action is in the center of the church hall, complete with its own stage.  The side rings are the refreshment stand and a back stage which is used for alternate scenes in Margery’s car, Jason’s bedroom or Pastor Greg’s study.

The audience sits in the middle of all this, at blue plastic checkered clothed tables  (maybe a little too clean and tidy for a much used facility for church plays and suppers!)    Each table has a supply of white socks and puppet making material along with instructions.

As the practice for the church sponsored puppet show starts, so the story unfolds.  

Tyrone appears to be possessed by demonic forces.  

But maybe not.  

Maybe what spews from his mouth are Jason’s inner thoughts wanting to bust out from the grief at his father’s death and his estrangement from his doting mother, his frustrations with growing up and his hots for Jessica  

 Teenage angst or a search for the authentic?   

Whatever.

A reversal from theater in the round with the physical and psychic actions  going on around the audience —who mercifully is not asked to participate in this fast moving, foul mouthed,  somewhat sexually explicit but most definitely violently blood and gore— comedy.

The theological conondrum posed is over man’s need for both a god savior and a rampant destructive devil.  

Tyrone offers the introduction and the summary to the play in what might be a voice of reasonable philosophers.  

Add some modern psychology for a  framework for compassion and understanding for the fragile angels of our inner selves.  

Hand to God —an experience to remember! And you get to take home the sock puppet you make to make sure you do!


At The Studio Theatre, 1501 14th St. NW, Washington DC until Aug. 7, 2016