“Hand to God” brings dark comedy to the Orcas Center

Parents, leave your kids at home. A demonic puppet is about to take over the Black Box for two weekends in July.

Playwright and Texas-native Robert Askins emboldens a gray sock with diabolical thoughts and a silver tongue in his Tony-nominated production “Hand to God.”

“(Jason) has no way to express the emotions he’s feeling and no outlet. He’s got bullies, he’s got a crush on a girl and no one to talk to. All this stuff is bottled up and building up inside of him, he needs to find an outlet,” said Ben Burris, who plays the lead characters of teenage Jason and Tyrone, his potentially possessed puppet. “Tyrone is his protector and all the dark things and emotional angst that has been building up inside of him come out through this puppet, and eventually that puppet turns on him.”

“Hand to God” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. on July 5–7, 12 and 14; at 2 p.m. on July 8 and 15; and 6 p.m. on July 13 in the Black Box at Orcas Center. Tickets are $20 for adults, $16 for students and $2 off for Orcas Center members. Double show promotional pricing is available for Friday, July 13 – tickets to both “Hand of God” and the Shook Twins concert are $40 for the set.

“In my opinion, it has quite a bit to offer – there’s really a lot there – and that intrigued me and interested me. It has one of the widest arks of any play that I’ve done,” said director Robert Hall. “The story is much deeper than it may seem. It’s about how we handle hurt, kind of, in a lot of ways.”

The dark, humorous, edgy play is set in a church basement where a group of teenagers participates in creating puppets to share a religious message. Hall brought in Los Angeles actor Burris, who just ended a six-week run playing Jason and Tyrone in “Hand to God” at the Seattle Public Theater. Along with acting the part of both lead characters, he also built the puppets used in the SPT and upcoming Orcas productions.

“I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Jason or Tyrone,” Burris said. “I’m thrilled to be able to continue doing this show and continuing this story. I love it.”

Hall attended three showings of the play in Seattle during which he decided he must bring it to the Orcas Center.

“It’s been a while since I’ve been to a play where the audience was having so much fun,” Hall said. “I can’t remember the last play I’ve seen that there was that much laughter going on in the audience. It moved me.”

Other actors in “Hand to God” include Mindy Sonshine as Jason’s mom Margery; Chris Dalla Santa as troubled Timmy; Jessica Diamond as sweet Jessica; and Don Yerly as humble Pastor Greg.

“I really think that it’s something any actor or director should see – just in terms of its base creativity,” Hall said. “I just love it. It’s funny and it’s irreverent.”