Convinced Christians may take offense at Hand to God. Convinced Christians with a sense of humor may find themselves in the odd position of taking offense while laughing.
Robert Askins’s 2011 dark comedy centers on Jason, a nice teenage boy growing up Missouri Synod Lutheran in Cypress, Texas (real place, population 122,803), whose life went kerflooey six months earlier, when Dad succeeded in overeating himself to death. Mom has responded with relentless good cheer and righteous works; she’s supervising a Jesus-centric puppet show at church, and Jason’s supposed to be in it. Thing is, Jason’s relationship with his Kermit-esque hand puppet, Tyrone, has gotten out of hand. Tyrone’s doing most of the talking lately, and the things he’s saying aren’t nice. Plenty of blood and secrets will be spilled before his wild ride is done. Pentagrams will be drawn.
The play is basically a crazed, funny look at anger and urges and the frightening shapes they assume when people are trying their damnedest to suppress them. In that sense it’s a bit like The Crucible. One major difference, though: Arthur Miller didn’t give Satan stage time. Hand to God comes with an epilogue in which Tyrone gets to deliver his rather scathing indictment of religion in general and Christianity in particular. That’s where the convinced might go cold. But they’ll have to get through the well-modulated frenzy of Gary Griffin’s production first, crowned by Alex Weisman’s masterfully schizoid performance as both sweet, bewildered Jason and the nemesis at the end of his arm.
Hand to God Through 10/23: Wed-Fri 7:30 PM (except Wed 10/5, 2 PM only), Sat 3 and 7:30 PM, Sun 3 PM; also Tue 10/11, 7:30 PM, Victory Gardens Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln, 773-871-3000, victorygardens.org, $27-$60.