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Arts & Culture

Local Playwright’s Houston Debut Involves Story Set In Cypress

The dark comedy blends humor and grief with an angst-ridden church youth group.

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  • Steve Pacek as Tyrone
in the Alley Theatre’s production
of Hand to God. (Photo Credit: Lynn Lane)
    Steve Pacek as Tyrone in the Alley Theatre’s production of Hand to God. (Photo Credit: Lynn Lane)
  • Jay Sullivan as Timothy, Emily Trask as
Jessica, Steve Pacek as Jason, Michael Brusasco
as Pastor Greg and Elizabeth Bunch as
Margery in the Alley Theatre’s production
of Hand to God. (Photo Credit: Lynn Lane)
    Jay Sullivan as Timothy, Emily Trask as Jessica, Steve Pacek as Jason, Michael Brusasco as Pastor Greg and Elizabeth Bunch as Margery in the Alley Theatre’s production of Hand to God. (Photo Credit: Lynn Lane)
  • Steve Pacek as Jason in the Alley Theatre’s
production of Hand to God. (Photo Credit: Lynn Lane)
    Steve Pacek as Jason in the Alley Theatre’s production of Hand to God. (Photo Credit: Lynn Lane)

It's been described as "Sesame Street Meets the Exorcist." Robert Askins' play, Hand to God takes place just northwest of Houston in the suburb of Cypress. It involves a sock puppet named Tyrone. But things get ugly when Tyrone becomes possessed by the devil.

"Every time that puppet opens his mouth, he says the worst things imaginable," Askins explains. "And somehow it comes back around to making you laugh."

Askins graduated high school from the Cy-Fair school district in 1999 and started getting serious about writing plays as a student at Baylor. Hand to God addresses issues of grief and lust and is set in the strict religious environment of small-town Texas. "It's really important for me, in somebody trying to tell stories about the Texas that I grew up in – and the Cypress that I grew up in – to get it right... To tell it with both love and humor." Askins says.

The play has already been shown on Broadway and been nominated for a Tony Award. "They asked me to come do this play and I'd seen Rob's play in New York," says Director Mark Shanahan. "I had some friends involved in that production and I loved it. I remember watching it and thinking, ‘Oh my god, this is outrageous.'"

Hand to God is onstage at the Alley Theatre through September 18th.