Each of us keeps a demon inside. The devil on our shoulder isn't someone that should be heeded all of the time (or even very often), but sometimes that pitchforked baddie gives us the courage to take on something a little too large for our better angels.
"Hand to God," the latest production at 2nd Street Theater, takes the idea of the devil on our shoulder and makes it literal. Jason, Jessica and Timmy are three teenagers in a puppet workshop for their local church. Jason's mother Margery is recently widowed and teaching the class to focus on busy work instead of her loss. Pastor Greg has feelings for Margery and is working on the best way to express those feelings. Meanwhile, Jason's puppet Tyrone has taken on a vulgar and disturbing life of his own and is very possibly possessed by the devil.
Jason has feelings for Jessica, but is so painfully shy that speaking to her is almost an impossibility. At first, Tyrone is his voice to sing songs praising Jesus, but eventually becomes another personality entirely.
As funny and profane as some of the things Tyrone says are, there's always an ambiguity to whether the puppet is actually possessed or if Jason is showing signs of mental illness. All of the characters in the show are deeply unhappy and just searching for the right combination of words to make everything OK again.
"Hand to God" is a show where you find yourself uproariously laughing while also wincing in pain for the poor lost souls who make up the cast. Tommy Kuchulis brings such beautiful sadness to Jason that we immediately empathize with this boy who doesn't want to play with puppets anymore, instead wanting his mother to act like she loves him again. His work as the increasingly unhinged Tyrone is also fantastic as he brings a dark and twisted Warner Brothers cartoon into disturbing and hilarious life.
"The moral of the show is that everyone has a moment where their religious, spiritual, or moral beliefs are tested," says director Scott Schultz. "We all have moments where life seems to just pile it on us and causes us to have moments that cause us to lash out or question our very beliefs. It also showcases how easy it is for parents or other adults to miss the signs of mental illness or not see red flags that their child needs help."
Even though "Hand to God" is an extremely funny show, the humor is drenched in a pitch black look at family and community. The show is definitely a comedy, but it's got more than punchlines on its mind. "As a society we need to learn how to truly love and appreciate each other and accept our flaws," says Schultz. "It's so easy to blame one another as it is to blame the devil. 'Love is love is love is love is love is love.'"
"Hand to God"
Jan. 13-28, 7:30pm, matinees at 3pm
2nd Street Theater, 220 NE Lafayette Ave., Bend
2ndstreettheater.com for tickets