Broadway has seen its share of puppets, from the Muppets to Avenue Q’s more off-color characters. But Hand to God takes the puppet play to a new realm by tinting that off-color humor a muddier hue. Robert Askins’ dark comedy began off-Broadway but made a rapid move to the main stage, garnering five Tony nominations (including Best Play) and becoming widely produced across the country. Its popularity attracted the attention of Las Vegas’s Majestic Repertory Theatre, which is producing Hand for audiences at Alios beginning March 23.
Recently transplanted to the Arts District for at least the season, Troy Heard’s Majestic focuses on American plays new and old. Nothing the company has in the works will likely compare with its current offering. “A satanic, foul-mouthed hand puppet is only the beginning,” Heard says. “I got to use my horror training for this one, because there is so much blood and so many horrific moments.”
The play takes place in a rural Texas town and begins when Pastor Greg (played by Josh Sigal) puts the recently bereaved widow Margery (Pietra Sardelli) in charge of the teen puppet club. Her son Jason (Andrew Young) is a pro, perhaps too much so considering his puppet, Tyrone, is apparently also the Devil. Tyrone proceeds to lead the teens on a spree like the town’s never imagined.
“At its heart, this is a play about accountability,” Heard says. “Who is to blame when things go wrong? Who is responsible for evil? Who gets used as a scapegoat?” Whether audiences appreciate the subtlety of these questions might be less relevant than whether they’re entertained, especially since the venue is only two rows deep, putting viewers right in the middle of the action.
The real treat will no doubt be the sources of the action—familiar favorites like Breon Jenay (in the role of Jessica, the girl next door) and new talents like Wright, a recent transplant from Texas, who Heard unabashedly describes as “f*cking phenomenal. At times you forget that there’s a puppet on his hand,” Heard exclaims, “like there are two actors onstage.”
Hand to God March 23-April 15, times vary, $22-$25. Alios, 1217 S. Main St., 702-423-6366.