Hand to God
Reflections by GVPTA blogger Gerald Williams
That I love going to the theatre is probably not a surprise if you’re reading this - after all, I do write this blog after seeing plays. I discuss, read, write and even direct plays. After seeing Hand Of God, I contemplated why I liked it so much.
I like sitting in the theatre soon after the doors open and looking at the set. At Hand of God I saw a basement in a church. Elements of which recalled my own childhood, right down to a copy of the picture of Jesus that hung in the rec room of the house I grew up in. There was evidence of childhood whimsy with decals of animals including a giraffe and cut-outs of butterflies. I saw the familiar places I’d known; places of innocence wrapped in a cheerful dreariness.
The play started and I experienced the thrill - immediately. You may recognize that thrill. It is when something happens that makes you sit up and pay attention. You’re not sure exactly what’s happening, but it’s unexpected, dangerous, and provides danger while you’re safely seated amongst the anonymity of your theatre-going peers.
During intermission I heard one person quietly express that the play is ‘vulgar’. My initial internal reaction was that the world presents far more vulgarity in the form of dishonesty and deceit in public officials and we tolerate that….then I got off my high horse and agreed. It is vulgar. Fantastically, joyously and sometimes hilariously vulgar. The type of vulgarity that stems from rage and inarticulate anger, emotions that are not understood.
The play is about a young boy, Jason (Oliver Castillo) and his mother Margery (Jennifer Lines). Her husband died months prior and they are coping with the loss. The mother teaches a class in her church on puppetry and the boy has created a puppet, Tyron (Oliver Castillo), who lives on his arm and is the source of a great deal of the vulgarity.
I had a very close friend whose husband died when she was 26 and had a four-year-old son. The effort she took to ensure her son was being raised in a balanced and supportive environment was remarkable. With her extended family she would regularly discuss what type of support the boy needed as he was growing; sports activities, vacations, trips with male family members. She had also worked out that once a year she could, for two weeks, take time away from her son and be a single woman and not a widow with a son. Watching Hand of God it is easy to picture a family in grief slipping into unhealthy behaviours and harmful attempts searching for life-balance.
Go and see this play. It is familiar, provocative and rewarding in the way you want theatre to be. And how often do you leave a theatre saying, “That kid with the puppet, wow!”
For information and tickets: http://artsclub.com/shows/2016-2017/hand-to-god
Cast: Oliver Castillo as Jason/Tyrone, Mike Gill as Timothy, Julie Leung as Jessica, Jennifer Lines as Margery, Shekhar Paleja as Pastor Greg.
Director: Stephen Drover
Arts Club’s Hand to God is at the Goldcorp stage at the BMO Theatre Centre until June 25th.