Nice Never Got Me Anything

I wasn’t sure what to think when a puppet stuck his head through the curtain and starts giving us a foul invective on the history of humanity.

I wasn’t sure what to think as two teens are having a perfectly normal conversation while their puppets are having very graphic sex.

I wasn’t sure what to think when a priest and a mother prepare for a puppet’s exorcism.

I wasn’t sure what to think when a mother is trashing the scenery, nor when her young rough-sex partner is literally chewing up the scenery. “Eat it for me Jimmy!”

What I know for sure is that this is a play/experience not to be missed. Nominated for multiple Tony’s, and now as Coal Mine’s 15th fully sold out production, Robert Askins’ Hand To God asks us to question the innocence and devil in all of us. This is not a puppet show, puppets just happen to play another side of a few of the characters on stage. The character are supposedly naïve (“I’m forced to look at his boner”), which is amplified by the fact that this all transpires in the basement of a southern fundamentalist Christian church.

All 5 actors are very strong and perfect played, but it’s Frank Cox-O’Connell (Jason), and his alter-ego puppet (Tyrone) that have the audience rapt. The Who’s on First scene is magical, but we are soon forewarned what is to come when Tyrone interrupts a cute wholesome courting scene with the true crude thoughts of his puppeteer.

Kudos to set designer Anahita Dehbonehie who made automobiles, rooms, beds, swings, cleverly appear from nowhere. Favourite lines include “you’re so far back in the closet you’re in Narniah”, and “I’ve got empty arms”.

According to Tyrone, “Nice never got me anything”. Quickly reserve a pew for the next performance of Hand To God, and see if this puppet is speaking truth.

Coal Mine Theatre, 1454 Danforth Ave, Toronto. Till May 12th, 2019. Tickets