Regional Theatre Review: Hand To God- Philadelphia Theatre Company
Hands Up for Hand To God at PTC
This is now my second time attending a Philadelphia Theater Company (PTC) at Suzanne Roberts Theatre on Broad Street, aka “Avenue of the Arts.” I was blown away by the professional grade venue the first time, and am even more so enthralled my second go around.
Hand To God by Robert Askins is an interesting choice to produce during the Easter season and is not for the super conservatives in nature. Very adult in theme and language but completely tongue-in-cheek and entertaining.
Philly is not a town that should go unnoticed to build a fruitful life in theatre. Two UArts alums take over the stage, Alex Keiper (Jessica) and Matteo J. Scammel (Timothy) in supporting roles. Both young, both talented, and both working their tails off in the city. I was fortunate enough to see both on stage in other productions earlier this season.
As much as it thrills me to see actors making a living in Philly theatre, I am even more excited when I’m introduced to talent I haven’t seen before. No stranger to Philly theatre, but my first encounter with the exquisite Aubie Merrylees (Jason/Tyrone).
Merrylees proves that acting is a sport. Not only did he build one character arc, he built two! His simultaneous performances are unmatched as far as I am concerned. Good versus evil and back again. Playing young Jason and his dubious imaginary puppet friend, Tyrone.
When not volleying on stage again himself, Merrylees has the finest of court partners in Grace Gonglewski who plays Jason’s mother, Margery. Recently widowed and trying to keep her composure, watching her strip away her layers (of clothese) as she deals with parenting solo.
PTC describes Hand To God as “the good children of Cypress, Texas are taught to obey the Bible in order to evade Satan’s hand, but all hell breaks loose when Jason’s puppet at the Christian Puppet Ministry presents a shockingly sinister agenda of its own. In this hilarious and lightning-paced comedy, a foul-mouthed sock puppet named Tyrone soon teaches those around him that a person’s darkest urges and desires fit like a glove, and Jason must re-define himself before the ventriloquist becomes the dummy. This irreverent Tony Award-nominated Broadway comedy hit inspires chills and chuckles as it unravels the fragility of faith.”
The production value at PTC is unmatched as far as I’m concerned. It is the closest thing to Broadway that I’ve seen to date. Brian Sidney Bembridge’s scene design totally brought back flashbacks for me of growing up in catholic school. Painted cinder blocks of puke yellow and all!
Directed by Matt Pfeiffer, this production is a must see. Explicit language and content. Runs until April 30th. Make sure you get seats closer to the front as the further back of the house, the closer you are the lobby where it was quite loud during Act 1 from either patrons at the bar or employees. A definite, but brief distraction.
Philadelphia Theatre Company at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre
Box Office: 215.985.0420
Anne Marie holds a BFA in Theatre Arts from Kutztown University. She has worked professionally in Philadelphia and Delaware County in stage management, directing, and producing. She is the owner of Nightcap Cabaret, Philadelphia’s philanthropic cabaret company. Over the past 20 years, Anne Marie has worked with Mazeppa Productions, The Walnut Street Theatre, Upper Darby Summer Stage, Encore Entertainment, Rockwell Productions, Media Theater, Players Club of Swarthmore, and Narberth Community Theatre, among others. Anne Marie served as a Barrymore nominator for Theatre Philadelphia for the 16/17 season and currently serves as an adjudicator for Philadelphia Independence Awards.
She is currently Editor-in-chief for Philly Review.
Instagram and Twitter @annemarie0817