Review – ‘Hand to God’ at Left Edge Theatre in Santa Rosa By Alexa Chipman
(recommended for mature audiences only)
Irreverent mayhem turns a prudish Christian service practice into an orgy of foul-mouthed diatribes and impromptu sex—and that’s just the puppets.
Recent widow Margery and her son Jason are overcome with loss and anger, dealing with the wrenching pain in rather unhealthy ways. For Margery, it brings out repressed BDSM tendencies, to the detriment of cheerful posters gracing the Sunday School walls. Jason’s heartbreak emerges through a cranky puppet called Tyrone, who is prone to violent outbursts and ill-tempered blustering.
Tyrone is the real star of this play, lashing out at accepted norms, and ruthlessly swearing his way past veiled lies, with button eyes glaring at his victims. It does not take long to accept him as a separate character, due to the talent of Dean Linnard, who is essentially portraying two people simultaneously—an irate puppet and nervous teenage boy unable to articulate his feelings.
Constantly dealing with men propositioning her, rather than accepting that she is processing her grief, Margery (Melissa Claire) slowly unravels, leading to a moving outpouring of sorrow to the pastor and finally accepting that she needs help. Teenage admirer Timmy (Neil Thollander) becomes collateral damage in her indulgences to dampen the pain.
Through a bloody altercation to exorcize the puppet’s control, Jason manages to free himself with the help of Jessica (Chandler Parrott-Thomas) who refuses to give up and reminds Jason that he is intriguing enough on his own and does not need Tyrone to define him.
This unique format, by playwright Robert Askins, appears chaotic but is carefully structured for the story and thematic elements. Director Chris Ginesi has found a balance between the flippant comedy and darker philosophical questions regarding the nature of right and wrong as a potentially artificial construct.
April George’s lighting and Argo Thompson’s set design work together in a humorous symphony, with exploding lamps and ominous flickering across the saccharine décor. A typical church basement has been recreated with amusing accuracy, right down to the miniature plastic chairs and vibrant letters spelling “God’s Love” by the door.
Leave your convictions at the door to fully appreciate this diabolical comedy at Left Edge Theatre. With an accomplished ensemble, unusual story, and rudely salacious puppets, ‘Hand to God’ is an enjoyable and oddly thought-provoking production.
Hand to God
Presented by Left Edge Theatre through November 11, 2018 Fri/Sat at 8:00pm, Sun at 2:00pm
Photos by Katie Kelley
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