Hand To God has become one of Broadway’s classic comedies with two Tony Awards under its belt. Now Australian audiences have the opportunity to broaden their theatrical minds with a play that has no boundaries. I don’t think you’ll fully understand what the show is about until you immerse yourself into the crass and messed up lives of these six characters, and by six I mean one is in fact a puppet. This is not an easy show to perform but with a stellar cast including Alison Whyte, Gyton Grantley, Grant Piro, Jake Speer and Morgana O’Reilly, the quick wit and utter devotion to the chaos is what will win you over.
Written by Robert Askins is quite literally what would be the love child of Avenue Q and The Book of Mormon. It’s intelligent, dark, ridiculous, hilarious and highly inappropriate, but it’s these qualities theatre lovers have come to enjoy about escaping reality and going to the theatre. The play opens with a rather intriguing monologue from a puppet named Tyrone. In it, he poses some of life’s more sinister ideologies, and as the play unfolds, you are positioned to question the difference between works of the devil and how we all have a little bit within us.
Tyrone, played by Grantley, is Jason’s (also played by Grantley) puppet friend who takes on a life of its own. And while each of the characters form bizarre attractions to each other, Tyrone’s meddling becomes a work of Satan. Or does it?! The banter and nature of these character’s conversations are nothing short of hysterical, with a dynamic pace and charm to it.
Newcomers, Speer and O’Reilly play two of the three teenagers amidst a few of our country’s finest. I was highly impressed by their caricatures and the way in which they held their own in each scene. A standout scene between O’Reilly and Grantley happened with their puppets, and let’s just say – it’s better than porn!!!!!!!! O’Reilly owned the moment showing leadership and support for her fellow cast mate. And while Speer embodied every little bit of the horny teen pining over the MILF, well that was just perfection.
Pastor Greg played by Piro to me seemed like a real life interpretation of The Simpson‘s character Ned Flanders. He was awkward yet forthcoming when his character needed to step up, and his vulnerability to woo a widowed Margery, was a combination of endearing and just down-right creepy. As for Whyte, who played Margery, well her erratic and frazzled nature made for the perfect mourning widow disturbed by her son’s demonic puppet, and an exceptional leading lady.
However, there is no doubt this show anchors with Grantley’s performance. Vocally, it is such an enormous feat to get through each scene with two conversations coming from the one being. He juggled the personalities brilliantly giving a balanced display of emotion and evil.
Hot Tip: If you’re not openminded to life’s weird and wonderful occurrences, then don’t see the show. It’s really not going to be your cup of tea. But if you are into that, go to the toilet before the show and take someone who you can belly laugh with the whole way through. I’m still having flashbacks now to moments in the play. It is solid gold I tell you.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Hand To God is now playing at the Alex Theatre in St Kilda until Sunday March 18th. For tickets and more info, head here.
The reviewer attended the show on opening night, February 24th. Photo Credit: Angel Leggas.