Nominated for FOUR 2017 Elliot Norton Awards:
Outstanding Actor: Eliott Purcell
Outstanding Actress: Marianna Bassham
WINNER of the 2017 Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding Director
Described as “Sesame Street meets The Exorcist” by the New Yorker, Hand to God tells the story of an awkward Texas teen named Jason, who spends his afternoons at his local church, practicing for the Christian Puppet Ministry run by his widowed mother. All hell literally breaks loose, however, when Jason’s puppet Tyrone takes on a shocking and dangerously irreverent personality all its own. Hand to God explores the startlingly fragile nature of faith, morality, and the ties that bind.
MARGERY Marianna Bassham
JASON / TYRONE Eliott Purcell
JESSICA Josephine Elwood
TIMOTHY Dario Ladani Sanchez
PASTOR GREG Lewis D. Wheeler
All sorts of demons are unleashed in Hand to God, a sulfurous comedy by Robert Askins that twists the classic coming-of-age tale into a new and jagged shape. Yes, there will be blood, along with some good nasty fun, as startling events unfold in the life of Jason, a Texas teenager possessed by a satanic sock puppet, Tyrone. Picture Kermit the Frog gone very, very bad. The lad’s transformation from dutiful son to ferociously profane rebel engenders considerable dismay in his mother, Margery — although it’s not long before Margery lifts the lid on her own id, with tumultuous results... But the playwright’s onrushing energy seldom flags, and neither does that of David R. Gammons’s production of Hand to God at SpeakEasy Stage Company... A past master of theater-as-steel-cage-match, Gammons brings a genuinely unsettling edge to Hand to God, which recently wrapped up a run on Broadway. But the director also clears enough emotional space for the occasional heartfelt moment to hit home — and such moments are necessary to make us care about the people onstage and keep the play from registering as merely a macabre cartoon.
- Dan Aucoin, The Boston Globe
SpeakEasy greeted 2017 by bringing the hot Broadway hit Hand to God to the BCA. Robert Askins' play about a young Christian boy and his possessed, twisted sock puppet buddy Tyrone is amusing, dark, and staged to great effect by director David R. Gammons. SpeakEasy’s production uses rich sound, versatile lights, and nifty curtains to capture the collapse of a Texan church basement into Hell (sound design by Andrew Duncan Will; lighting design by Jeff Adelberg). Much as in his production of Necessary Monsters, Gammons electrifies the production with effective strobe lights and ominous, distorting music. Cristina Todesco’s set captured five different locations with these elements, along with some discreetly wheeled furniture. Jonathan Little’s puppet design charts Tyrone’s swift evolution throughout the play, and Purcell’s deft manipulation of Satan incarnate shone under the puppetry direction of Roxanna Myhrum.
- Fabiana Cabral, My Entertainment World
This production is brilliantly directed by David R. Gammons, and features a stunning cast. Be aware that despite the fact that it is a play with puppets, this is not light family entertainment. Imagine that Jim Henson had been asked to write a mash-up of The Exorcist, Equus, and Rosemary’s Baby. The result would be something like the feel of Hand To God. ... The play is ribald, sacrilegious - bordering on blasphemous, and profane. It is not for the faint of heart nor for the easily offended. You have been warned. Having issued the aforementioned caveats, I will say that this production of this difficult play is superbly well-executed. The plot deals with an angry and confused teenager, Jason, (Eliott Purcell) reluctantly taking part in his widowed mother's attempt to find new meaning in life by creating a puppet ministry in the basement of their church. His puppet, Tyrone, takes on a life of his own, spewing forth venom and fomenting violence and chaos everywhere that Jason turns his haunted hand. The playwright is inviting us to ponder whether this is a complex psychological mechanism at work, whereby Jason is expressing his rage over his father's death, his anger at facile Christian answers to deep question, and his repressed sexual awakenings. Or is Tyrone truly possessed of the devil, able to wreak havoc in supernatural ways? Mr. Purcell shows great range in his ability to toggle back and forth between Jason and the voice of the increasingly aggressive voice of Tyrone. His physical, emotional, and vocal agility is on display here. It is a remarkable performance that should not be missed.
- Al Chase, White Rhino Report
By Robert Askins
January 6 - February 4, 2017
SpeakEasy Stage Company
Wimberly Theatre at the Calderwood Pavilion
Boston Center for the Arts
Photos: David R. Gammons