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The MIHS Islander

The Student News Site of Mercer Island High School

The MIHS Islander

The Student News Site of Mercer Island High School

The MIHS Islander

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Expect the Unexpected in Penguin Productions’ “Hand to God” at the Seattle Rep

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Tera Winter
Jason (Emmitt Driscoll) reveals his attraction to Jessica (Annabel Rimmer) through the puppet Tyrone.

“Hand to God,” a dark comedy surrounding religion, grief and familial relationships played Sunday, June 4 at the Seattle Repertory Theatre. 

The play opens with a prologue delivered by a malevolent puppet, Tyrone (played by Emmet Driscoll). He presents a monologue questioning the morality of humanity, which foreshadows characters’ actions to follow.

After the beginning prologue, the story follows Margery (played by Lydia Mushkatina) and Jason (also played by Driscoll), a mother and son. Margery runs a church group that portrays the gospel of Jesus through stories and songs in puppet shows. Jason, a member of the group, creates Tyrone in an attempt to please his mother, however Tyrone quickly becomes a scapegoat for Jason as he lashes out at those around him. 

The play was extremely comical and amusing. However, the general direction of the story was difficult to decipher, making the plot slightly erratic. The opening of the play led us to believe that the story would revolve around teenage struggles and the questioning of one’s morals. But as the play progressed, the premise shifted more towards the struggle of grief and loss of control within a mother-son relationship. 

Jason’s relationship with Tyrone is based on his need for escape as he utilizes the puppet to release the darker part of himself, quickly becoming unhealthy. The audience is left to question whether Tyrone is his own entity possessing Jason or if he is merely an extension of Jason’s true self. We believe in the latter as through the play more of Jason’s inner thoughts and opinions are expressed through Tyrone than through his own words. In a particularly moving scene that concluded Jason’s character development, Jason cuts his own hand in an attempt to separate himself from Tyrone, revealing the inseparability of Jason and Tyrone and Jason’s struggle coping with grief.

The production’s blocking choices were very impressive; the movements of Tyrone in contrast to Jason make it easy to follow the dialogues between the two. We were astonished by Driscoll’s incredible ability to play both Jason and Tyrone with equal commitment and enthusiasm. 

There is a strong religious component to the story as it relates to the emotional distress of Margery and her inability to maintain control over her life. There are some bold choices in the script, one of which is the ripping up of a real Bible. While the outburst in which Margery destroys this Bible emphasizes her character development and desire to feel free of responsibilities, we believe this scene was offensive to some audience members. That being said, the portrayal of Margery’s inner feeling of religious suffocation outweighed the offensiveness of the action. 

This theme is explored further when Pastor Greg, the pastor who inspired Margery to create the puppet group, (played by Miranda Gilbert) abuses his position in the church to gain the affection of Margery—this not only pushes Margery deeper into an emotional spiral but adds depth to her religious confusion in the play.  

Mushkatina’s acting is especially noteworthy; we were blown away by the passion in her delivery. She portrays Margery’s anxiety and overwhelming emotions extremely well, especially when Margery acts out against religion or against her son. One major moment in her character development is when Timothy (played by Greg Chvany), one of the students in the puppet show group, reveals that he has feelings for Margery. Eventually, in her sensitive state she gives in to his sexual inclination and their relationship becomes an unhealthy outlet for her pent-up emotions. The scene is quite uncomfortable to watch, but that is the point; it creates a more intimate atmosphere for audience members to be forced out of their comfort zone, which enhances the emotional impact and humor of the show.

Through the strife in their relationship, Margery and Jason come to realize they need healthy coping mechanisms to rekindle the stability that their family once had. The importance of healthy grieving rather than unraveling into chaos is highlighted in “Hand to God” as the characters lose control of their lives. The show’s unpredictable plot accentuates the reality of loss while reflecting inner feelings. Although uncomfortable and confusing at times, we were impressed by the acting, blocking and general production of the show.

 

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About the Contributors
Kira Lancaster, Graphics Manager
Kira Lancaster (she/her) is a sophomore at MIHS and the Graphics Manager for The Islander. She enjoys music and dance and is part of the Mercer Island Drill Team at MIHS. Outside of school, her hobbies include drawing, writing and singing. Her favorite animal is a scorpion!
Julia Weisfield, A&E Editor
Julia Weisfield (she/her) is a sophomore at MIHS and is the Arts and Entertainment Editor. Outside of school hours, she enjoys reading, skiing and traveling to new places. Julia is a 2nd year member of the MIHS Drill team and the MIHS Islander.

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