|Off Broadway program.|
|Off Broadway program.|
The following is an edited version of the review I posted of HAND TO GOD after seeing it Off Broadway at the Lucille Lortel Theatre in March 2014. It's now on Broadway with the same cast and creative team in a production that pretty much matches the original. If anything I was even more impressed this time, not only by the amazing performance of Steven Boyer, which is one of the most brain-searing I've seen in a long lifetime of theatregoing, but by the brilliance of the ensemble and the depth of the play, which a first time viewing is likely to mask because the conception is so original.
Robert Askins’s intriguingly subversive, boundary-crossing play, HAND TO GOD, features a breakout performance by Steven Boyer, who has been with this play since it premiered in 2011 premiere at the Ensemble Studio Theatre, for which he won an Obie. If he doesn't win more awards following the show's recent Broadway move, it will be either because of a rules technicality or because voters were asleep at the wheel. The fact that he actually has an understudy (Alex Mandell) is surprising, since it seems impossible that anyone could replicate what he does in this exceptionally difficult part, both emotionally and technically.
|From left: Geneva Carr, Sarah Stiles, Greg Kudisch, Steven Boyer, Michael Oberholtzer. Photo: Joan Marcus.|
The inventive Mr. Boritt, whose Lortel production created various spaces via a combination of revolving panels and walls that turned like book pages, now employs sliding units and a revolve; everything, however, looks just as it did downtown. The principal room, a cinderblock-walled church basement, has a desk, several plastic chairs, church posters, and a puppet booth with a red cross on its front.
|Steven Boyer. Photo: Joan Marcus.|
|Geneva Carr, Marc Kudisch. Photo: Joan Marcus.|
Tyrone's a foulmouthed monster, fully capable of biting off someone’s ear lobe and attacking Jason by the throat. (Pastor Greg calls for an exorcism at one point.) Mr. Boyer goes back and forth between being the retiring Jason and the frighteningly aggressive Tyrone with astonishing facility, changing his voice instantaneously to suggest Tyrone’s growling anger and sarcasm, and manipulating Tyrone’s tiny, but stretchable arms with such ease that it’s hard not to believe the gray sock puppet with the red and white button eyes isn't a living being. If you remember the 1945 portmanteau movie DEAD OF NIGHT, starring Michael Redgrave as a ventriloquist whose dummy seems to take control of him, you’ll have an idea of how nerve-wracking this can be. (MAGIC is another movie example, and there's a famous kabuki dance called KAGAMI JISHI where a hand puppet of a lion's head possesses the dancer.)
|Steven Boyer, Sarah Stiles. Photo: Joan Marcus.|
|Steven Boyer, Geneva Carr. Photo: Joan Marcus.|
|From left: Michael Oberholtzer, Geneva Carr, Steven Boyer, Greg Kudish, Sarah Stiles. Photo: Joan Marcus.|
HAND TO GOD
222 West 45th Street, NYC