This is not your mother’s Avenue Q or even your Book of Mormon. Hand to God is the darkest and most perverse thing on Broadway right now. Set in a small nondescript town in the American south, Hand to God is about a group of kids in a puppet club that meets in the basement of a church once a week and how one hand named puppet takes over Jason’s life and wreaks havoc on the group.
There are moments of laugh out loud hilarity. There’s a line in the first scene that had Kristen and I rolling on the floor for a good five minutes. We also nearly lost our shit during a scene change in the second act (really, Kristen almost died). But in between these moments of absolute hilarity, it drags a bit. It’s really dark and depressing. There are puppets, but not like in Avenue Q and there’s no cute score to go along with it. When the lights went up for intermission we still had no idea what we were watching or why (OK, the “why” is because we bought tickets, but you know what I mean).
The puppet wreaks havoc on the group and after some (er, a lot of) bloodshed, the puppet is thrown off the floor and Jason rushes with his mother to the hospital, claiming that if his possessed puppet hand comes back to life, she will help him. Black out. Then the stage is black and only the puppet head and hands appear. It’s incredibly creepy, and startling, and awesome.
The puppet gives a few minute monologue that MAY have brought the show together for me. It’s about how people started off sacrificing sheep to absolve themselves of their sins but when they realized they were wasting sheep, they decided to use a person and thus, the concept of Jesus was born. The puppet was definitely sneering at the audience and attempting to make us question our own thoughts about life and religion. Was he saying that we used different puppets in life to absolve ourselves of our sins? Or are we the puppets being controlled by some force that may not exist?
Steven Boyer was FANTASTIC as Jason and he better get a lot of nominations this season. Geneva Carr, Michael Oberholtzer, Sarah Stiles, and Marc Kudisch were all great too. Special shout out to Sarah Stiles who is always hilarious in anything she does.
Because this is a play that is dark and at times gruesome with a hard-to-grasp ultimate point, I don’t see this lasting very long, but who knows. I can imagine a lot of confused southern tourists going to see it thinking it’s going to be a happy show about god. That said: see it while you can. It’s worth seeing.