The B Street Theatre is staging “Hand to God,” an outrageous dark comedy that mixes desperately anxious teenage characters and puppets.
While the show is funny without a doubt, it pushes the limit in terms of language and content, and you’d best take the theater’s advisory that the production is intended for grownups pretty seriously.
“Hand to God” is about a lonely teenager named Jason, who develops a bizarre relationship with his puppet Tyrone. The puppet is almost permanently attached to one of Jason’s hands and develops a mind of its own.
It’s one of those Jekyll and Hyde situations. Jason is sensitive and mousy. But Tyrone is a terror—foul-mouthed, leering and lewd.
This exchange between the two stokes Jason’s fear that a more aggressive guy is having his way with a pretty girl that Jason likes.
"How do you think Timothy gets all the girls? Watch him!" Says Tyrone.
"He’s not very nice…" says Jason.
"No!" says Tyrone. "He’s not, he’s not very nice. And he’s already had your precious Jessica."
"No he hasn’t!" says Jason.
"You sure?" Tyrone says while laughing.
As the story progresses, Tyrone takes control, boldly bossing the boy around.
"You try to so much as take me off your hand… the next time you wake up, it’ll be with me STAPLED to your arm," says Tyrone.
This bouillabasse of saucy puppets, simmering sexual tension and a young man awkwardly coming of age turns dark toward intermission, when the puppet Tyrone suddenly develops pointed teeth, and a forked tongue.
"The Devil? You want the Devil? I’ll give the Devil!" says Tyrone.
Tyrone begins carrying on like a demon-possessed Muppet who’s wandered into “The Excorcist,” spewing expletives like a flamethrower, and yes, he steals a gross-out scene with the sharp, pointed teeth.
It’s a spellbinding performance by young Ryan Borses, who speaks as both Jason and Tyrone. But I should add that Tyrone’s language is so foul that I really had a hard time extracting soundbites from the dialogue that were suitable for use on the radio.
The plot works up to an acrobatic puppet seduction scene that is spectacularly bawdy and ridiculous. But when this show goes over the top — and it does — it can become deliberately provocative in an almost calculating way.
Later, I asked myself, “Do I really want to recommend a show that relies so much on puppets that talk dirty and simulate rough sex?”
But then I recollected how much I giggled during the performance.
So I’m giving this one a conditional recommendation. I think the bottom line with this consciously outrageous show is that the various characters harbor baser impulses and inward fears — as do we all.
And seeing these urges lampooned on stage by puppets can be pretty funny, and those scenes hit pretty close to the truth, in a sharp-edged, poke-in-the-gut way. But if you’ve grown weary of hip, fast-paced comedies crammed with blistering language, you have been warned. “Hand to God” is a play that some people will deem quite daring, a sort of Devil’s dessert—while others will dismiss it as a festival of filthy talk.
You should consider your own feelings and preferences, and then decide whether to get a ticket.
The hard-edged comedy “Hand To God” continues at the B Street Theatre in Sacramento through July 23.