What's it about?
Hand to God follows Jason, who, along with a few other kids and his puppet, Tyrone, is helping his mother put on a puppet show for their neighborhood church. But, when the devil possesses Tyrone, things start to get out of hand.
What'd I experience?
I did not really know what to expect from this show. Everyone I talked to about it just said "I hear it's awesome" or something along the lines of that, with the synopsis that the devil possesses some boy's hand puppet. I enjoy puppet stuff, and it sounded funny, so I had some sort of excitement to see it. But, oh my god, were my expectations not even close to what... I laughed the whole way through, and not those laughs you do when you're in an audience and there's a joke you don't really find funny but you laugh anyway so you won't be that guy.
As soon as I saw that the set looked exactly like a little kid classroom - I started to laugh. (PS The set was really cool and had like giant pieces that rotated and moved around between scenes, like to the point where I was scared an actor would get crushed) They also had like hearty and soulful worship music playing throughout the theater, which definitely got me warmed up before the show but also gave me the opportunity to spot a group of people who came to the show under the wrong pretense.
They were dressed in those "I Love God He Loves Me" sort of shirts and even had the hats to match, and they were singing along powerfully to each song so they must know them by heart. They must not have known what the show was about and just saw the title, Hand to God, and assumed it was a worship thing, because once the show started and they realized what it actually was about - they all got up and left.
The show opened up on a dark stage with one of those little kid puppet show things where it's just a curtain on a wooden board in the center of the stage. The spotlight shone on the curtain and Tyrone...
(Just look at the little guy, he's adorable)
Tyron popped his little head out and began to speak to the audience, and I fell in love with him (which I guess means I sort of fell in love with the Devil... ?). His body and hand were moved by the puppeteer's arm and hand, and he had two wiggly little arms on sticks. His movements alone were hilarious, and he even did a sort of Kermit "YAAAAY" wiggle a lot which brought back plenty of awesome nostalgia for me. One important feature that he did not share with the family-friendly Kermit was that Tyrone cursed. A lot. I'm pretty sure he said every curse that I can think of just in his opening monologue alone. I mean the rest of the cast cursed just as much but I was just expecting it from such a cute little puppet. I had no problem with it, because I'm not that family-friendly myself.
The show also had that sort of Wet Hot American Summer feel to it where it's a bunch of grown men and women playing 14 and 15 year olds - which is always hilarious. It was easy to get caught up and forget its adults, but when things happen where one of the characters downs half a bottle of rum and you suddenly remember "whoa, wait he's like 14," it makes the whole thing just that much more funny.
It was really interesting seeing the contrast between Jason and Tyrone. Jason is this shy, awkward kid who doesn't want to hurt anyone and just wants to be good, and then you have his puppet (Tyrone) that is the Devil incarnate. There were moments where Jason would be cowering in fear while Tyrone attacks another kid, or when Jason is trying to have a nice conversation and be polite and sweet and Tyrone just jumps in and threatens everyone. And it was extremely believable too. At no point during the show did I think that the guy playing Jason was also Tyrone, I just genuinely felt like Tyrone was an actual possessed hand puppet.
My favorite thing about the show though, was that it was not only a brutally and thoroughly dark comedy, but it also hit on some really deep and emotional things. Aside from all of the blood, the jokes, and the middle-aged woman and child abusive relationships, it dealt with some really powerful themes. It touched on: dealing with loss, rejection, fitting in, growing up, the balance and definition between "good" and "evil," and more. Shows like this really help to kind of show some of the irony of life. Where things can be kind of sad and bleak but at the same time funny, if you look at it. And the idea that both good and bad can't exist without the other - that you just have to accept both of them.
Altogether this was one of those experiences where I'm happy I went in a little blind. I did not really know what to expect and was really surprised with what I ended up seeing. I didn't think I would find my new favorite puppet character. I also did not expect to sit through an almost 10 minute puppet sex scene (I kid you not, it was both insanely awkward and hilarious at the same time). This might actually be one of my new favorite shows.
Also, for a little taste of Tyrone, you can follow him on Twitter. I do.