By Nora Dominick ‘17/Emertainment Monthly Assistant Stage Editor
It’s like Sesame Street on crack! Hand to God has taken Broadway by storm this year with its sinfully hilarious storyline. Currently playing at the Booth Theatre in New York City, Hand to God has become the funniest new play on Broadway.
Hand to God tells the story of Jason, a shy, inquisitive student whom his mother Margery has dragged to Christian Puppet Ministry. His creativity is tested when he created Tyrone, a scene-stealing sprite who takes on a dangerously irreverent personality of his own. As Tyrone’s influence over Jason grows, Hand to God launches into an exploration of the nature of faith, morality and trying to find your place in this crazy world.
Written by Robert Askins, Hand to God premiered Off-Broadway at the Ensemble Studio Theatre in October of 2011 and later returned in 2012. In 2014 it caught the attention of even more Broadway fans when it opened Off-Broadway at the Lucille Lortel Theatre in an MCC Theater production. In 2014 it won the Off-Broadway Alliance Award for Best New Play and this year it was nominated for five Tony Awards. Hand to God is turning heads and maybe the funniest thing to hit Broadway since Book of Mormon.
Steven Boyer gives a hilarious and gut-wrenching performance as the quiet Jason in Hand to God. Boyer gives a Tony Award worthy performance. He starts as a quiet child simply following his mother to Christian Puppet classes and transforms into a raunchy, possessed puppet. Right before the audience’s eyes, Boyer goes between Jason and Tyrone, the hellish puppet, with ease. He is one of the few actors who can effortlessly go between two characters at the drop of a pin. Boyer showcases his hilarious comedy in his moments as Tyrone. One of his funniest moments comes during Act Two after Tyrone has been transformed into the demon puppet possessed by the devil. The basement of the church where Puppet Rehearsal is normally held has been transformed into a cave for the devil inhabiting Tyrone. The audience sits and soaks in the scene change and Boyer sits there taking all the hilarity in. He is a force to be reckoned with and in these small moments of hilarity is where Boyer really shines.
Although Boyer’s Jason is the main character it’s his performance as Tyrone that steals Hand to God. Boyer is one of the few actors who can make the audience totally transfixed on a puppet. His performance as Tyrone is one for the ages as the puppet transforms from a quiet puppet reciting the classic Abbott and Costello skit “Who’s on First?” to a puppet possessed by the devil who tries to rip off Timothy’s, the local bully who is in love with Margery, ear and has sex with a fellow puppet. Tyrone is the funniest character on Broadway right now and Boyer’s ability to go from moments of pure adrenaline as Tyrone to complete panic and heartache, as Jason is astounding. Boyer is one of the greatest breakout performances of this Broadway season in Hand to God.
Although Steven Boyer steals the show as Jason/Tyrone, Tony Award nominee Geneva Carr as Jason’s mom Margery adds moments of shear, tear-inducing hilarity to Hand to God. Margery at first appears to be a simple Christian woman who has taken it upon herself to teach three children the joys of puppetry. As Hand to God progresses, Margery transforms into the funniest characters. Carr’s moments of pure anger steal the show as she wades through a world where a teenager has a heart-stopping crush on her and the church’s pastor, Pastor Greg, wants much more than to be her spiritual guide.
One of Carr’s funniest and memorable moments in Hand to God comes during Act one when she is alone with Timothy in the church basement. When no one else shows up for puppet practice, Margery is forced to come face to face with Timothy’s obsession and love for her. In a moment filled with sheer hilarity, Margery forces Timothy to rip up a poster and hurt her. The destruction of the basement adds an extra level of comedy to an already hilarious new play. Michael Oberholtzer’s performance as Timothy also adds to the comedy of this scene. His bully facade begins to crack and the audience witnesses his growing love for Margery as Hand to God progresses. Oberholtzer and Carr bounce the hilarious words of Robert Askins off each other with such ease.
The other standout in Hand to God is Sarah Stiles portrayal of Jessica, a nerdy, beautiful girl who wants to help Jason escape Tyrone’s grasp. Her moments opposite Boyer are perfection especially in Act Two when she breaks into the basement of the church to help Jason and the possessed Tyrone. Stiles is the breakthrough comedian of Hand to God and every single scene she is in is magnificent. Stiles work opposite Boyer and Oberholtzer is Tony Award worthy and here’s hoping Stiles comedic chops are here to stay. Broadway veteran Marc Kudisch also does a phenomenal job as Pastor Greg. Kudisch flourishes as a Pastor who has fallen head-over-heels in love with a woman who doesn’t want or need him. He fits into the world perfectly and rounds out the funniest cast on Broadway perfectly.
Hand to God is taking the Broadway community by storm. This hilarious new comedy continues to show the diversity on Broadway. Steven Boyer, Geneva Carr and the entire cast leaves everything on the Booth Theatre stage and fans should flock to see this inventive new play.
Hand to God is currently playing at the Booth Theatre in New York City. For tickets and more information visit http://handtogodbroadway.com/