Thursday, June 2, 2022

REVIEW: Hand to God Via Paramount’s New BOLD Series at The Copley Theatre Through JULY 10, 2022

ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar 


MAY 25-JULY 10, 2022 


 August Forman (left, they/them/theirs) as Jason, Jason’s potentially satanic puppet, Tyrone, and Monica West in the driver’s seat as Margery. Credit for all production photos: Liz Lauren

Everybody loves puppets! Even puppets that may or may not be possessed by Satan. Right?

**Hand to God is suggested for ages 18 and up due to strong adult language, sexual harassment, simulated sex and simulated sexual violence.**

(from left) Adam Wesley Brown plays Pastor Greg, Monica West is Margery, August Forman is Jason/Tyrone, and Felicia Oduh plays Jessica. 


By Bonnie Kenaz-Mara

Nuclear Family Meltdown

August Forman (they/them/theirs) is Jason, seen here puppeteering Tyrone

Paramount's Hand to God is epic storytelling by true masters of the craft. The cast killed it at the press opening last night and I can't think of a truer tale for our times. Hand to God is a perfect microcosm of our society, where we wake up to daily mass shootings, eroding human rights, safety nets that strangle, and a failure of religion as a support system for the vulnerable. Chicago has endured 971 shootings, just 5 months into this year, and the south is rapidly going full on Gilead, ala Handmaid's Tale.

Jessica (Felicia Oduh, left) and Jason (August Forman) are members of a church puppetry club 

In intense times like these, theatre can be a great escape, with big song and dance numbers and colorful costumes, but it can also be a powerful tool for empathy, understanding, and revolutionary change. It's easy to get numb to the news, but theatre is uniquely poised to cut through the static. If you pay for a seat in a show, you're primed to listen for a chunk of time, without interjecting. Playwrights and actors are the canaries in the coal mine and can use their platform for deep truths on politics, religion, and the human condition where other mediums fail. Here at ChiIL Mama, we're so impressed that Paramount is launching edgy, controversial, thought provoking offerings, in addition to the Broadway style crowd pleasers that usually dominate in the suburbs. This psychological deep dive into loss, lust, and losing it is an absolute must see. Highly recommended. Four out of four stars. 

Adam Wesley Brown (left) plays Pastor Greg and August Forman plays Jason/Tyrone

August Forman (they/them/theirs) is Jason, seen here in a small town church basement sparring with the potentially possessed puppet, Tyrone

Props to the props and set design team, sound design and lighting, for designing a devilishly delightful playground for this drama to unfold on. It's truly spectacular. I'm also jazzed this show has a diverse cast and a non-binary director and lead in Trent Stork, Associate Artistic Producer and Casting Director at Paramount, and August Forman as Jason/Tyrone. 

Paramount’s entire cast for Hand to God deserves all the acclaim and awards. We've seen August Forman in numerous productions over the years, and what they deliver as Jason/Tyrone is nothing short of career defining. Adam Wesley Brown as Pastor Greg, Jordan Moore as Timmy, Felicia Oduh as Jessica, and Monica West as Margery are all stunningly good at bringing this dark comedy to life.  

August Forman (left, they/them/theirs) is Jason, seen here with the potentially satanic puppet, Tyrone, and Felicia Oduh plays Jessica

(from left) Jordan Moore plays Timmy, August Forman is Jason/Tyrone, and Felicia Oduh plays Jessica

Paramount's profanity riddled production isn't for the prudish, but it's perfect for those offended by the myriad ways our society lets down veterans, widows, women, children, the poor, the grieving, the sexually abused, gay and non-binary youth, and the mentally ill. This is the train wreck we can't look away from. It's the child of desperation with no reprieve. It's the nuclear family meltdown. It's misplaced guilt, blame, and loathing, turned to self harm and questionable life choices. It's the desperate cry for help that finally gets results, when being good just isn't cutting it anymore. And did I mention it's fucking hilarious. Playwright Robert Askins has gifted us some of the most raw, real characters out there, and Paramount's cast nailed it. Don't miss this.

Bonnie is a Chicago based writer, theatre critic, photographer, videographer, actress, artist and Mama. She owns two websites where she publishes frequently: (adult) & (family friendly). 

A small church ministry therapy group in Texas is the unlikely setting for Hand to God, a darkly humorous horror shocker guaranteed to leave your sides sore from laughter and your face soaked in tears. Brilliantly written by Richard Askins, Hand to God creates a funny, striking and poignant exploration of the deeply human journey of loss and the demons (both mythical and subliminal) that accompany the voyage. If God works in mysterious ways, wait until you see what Satan has up his, or at the end of your, sleeve. 

Avenue Q meets Little Shop of Horrors  in Hand to God, the Tony-nominated, darkly humorous horror shocker, puppets included, running May 25-July 10, 2022, at the new Copley Theatre, 8 E. Galena Blvd., right across the street from Paramount Theatre in downtown Aurora.

The second play in Paramount’s new BOLD Series, Hand to God promises to deliver again on Paramount’s pledge to bring fearless, thought-provoking and unexpected new forms of live theater to downtown Aurora. 

Paramount Theatre BOLD Series
Hand to God character portraits

August Forman (they/them/theirs) plays Jason/Tyrone 
Photo credit for all: Amy Nelson

Felicia Oduh plays Jessica

Monica West plays Margery 

Adam Wesley Brown plays Pastor Greg 

Jordan Moore plays Timmy 

The Copley Theatre, a sleek, state-of-the-art, 165-seat theater with a modern new lobby bar, reopened in March as downtown Aurora’s newest live theater space following a two-year, $2 million, top-to-bottom renovation. Since then, the Copley has been welcoming new audiences with a critically acclaimed staging of Lynn Nottage’s working class drama, Sweat, Paramount’s inaugural BOLD Series opener.


Photos of new Copley Theatre by Thomas J. King.

Sock it to me: Behind-the scenes of Paramount’s BOLD Series production, Hand to God

Paramount’s BOLD Series production of Hand to God features (from left) August Forman as Jason/Tyrone, with Adam Wesley Brown as Pastor Greg, Jordan Moore as Timmy, Felicia Oduh as Jessica, and Monica West as Margery. 

Paramount’s cast for Hand to God features August Forman as Jason/Tyrone, with Adam Wesley Brown as Pastor Greg, Jordan Moore as Timmy, Felicia Oduh as Jessica, and Monica West as Margery. All are making their Paramount debut except Brown, who performed a memorable turn as Carl Perkins in Paramount’s 2017 Broadway production of Million Dollar Quartet.

Trent Stork, Associate Artistic Producer and Casting Director at Paramount, directs. Stork made their Paramount directing debut in 2018 at the helm of Legally Blonde ( Award – Best Direction of a Musical), followed by Paramount’s 2021-22, smash hit season opener, Kinky Boots. They have worked on the directing team for 19 productions at Paramount, 13 of those alongside Artistic Director Jim Corti. Outside of Paramount, Stork has worked at the Kaufman Center in New York City, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Angels Theatre Company and The Nebraska Repertory Theatre, among others. They also started their own casting company, Trent Stork Casting, and was the Chicago casting director for the new West Side Story adaptation, directed by Steven Spielberg.

The Hand to God production team includes Jonathan Berg-Einhorn, scenic designer; Yvonne L. Miranda, costume designer; Cat Wilson, lighting designer; Jeffrey Levin, sound designer; Paul Deziel, projection design; Aimee Plant, properties designer; Jon Beal, fight choreographer; Jyreika Guest, intimacy director; Catherine Miller, dramaturg; Susan Gosdick, dialect coach; Spencer Lott, puppetry coach; Sara Gammage, stage manager; and Lanita VanderSchaaf, assistant stage manager.

Robert Askins (playwright) was born in Cypress, Texas in 1980. He moved to New York in 2005. His play Hand to God was first produced off Broadway in 2011 and 2014, then on Broadway in 2015, the latter receiving five Tony Awards nominations, including for Best New Play. The New York Times wrote “Askins’ darkly delightful play really inspires goose bumps as he unleashes a reign of terror…But he’s also flat-out hilarious, spewing forth acid comedy that will turn those goose bumps into guffaws.” Askins’s other plays include The Squirrels, Permission, Princes of Waco, Matthew and the Pastor’s Wife and The Love Song of the Albanian Sous Chef. Askins is an alumnus of I-73, Youngblood, and a member of The Ensemble Studio Theatre. He has received two E.S.T./Sloan grants, an Arch and Bruce Davis Award and the Helen Merrill Award for emerging playwrights. 

Hand to God performance schedule and ticket information

Previews start Wednesday, May 25, 2022. Press openings are Wednesday, June 1, at 7 p.m. and Thursday, June 2, at 7 p.m. Hand to God runs through July 10. Show times are Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.; Thursdays at 7 p.m.; Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Sundays at 1 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $67 to $74.

The Copley Theatre is located at 8 E. Galena Blvd., in the North Island Center, directly across the street from Paramount Theatre in downtown Aurora. For tickets and information, visit, call (630) 896-6666, or stop by the Paramount box office, 23 E. Galena Blvd., Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Note:  

Pay What You Can performances

In order to break down barriers to experiencing live theater, Copley Theatre will offer two Pay What You Can performances of Hand to God:  Thursday, May 26 at 7 p.m., and Saturday, May 28 at 2 p.m.

Both days, starting at 10 a.m., visit the Paramount Theatre box office, 23 E. Galena Blvd. in-person to request tickets. Customers will be asked how much they’d like to pay and will simply pay what they can. Limit four tickets per person. Offer not valid toward previous purchases. Online or phone purchases are not permitted. The Pay What You Can initiative is part of Paramount’s new program, REACH (Resources Expanding the Arts and Connecting Humanity).

Access Services

Paramount will offer an open and closed captioning performance on Wednesday, May 25 at 7 p.m.

If you require wheelchair or special seating or other assistance, please contact the box office at (630) 896-6666 or in advance.

Paramount offers assistive listening devices free of charge at all performances. Check in at the coat room before the show to borrow a listening device.

Paramount Theatre’s Covid-19 commitment to and safety and protocol

Paramount Theatre has followed, and will continue to follow, the requirements of the State of Illinois and the Kane County Health Department. Therefore, Paramount is following the guidance of the State of Illinois and recommends, but no longer requires, masks, proof of vaccination or negative COVID test for patrons. Mask wearing is strongly encouraged, but will be optional. For complete details, please read Paramount’s full Covid Policy. 

About Paramount Theatre's new Bold Series

Paramount Theatre’s inaugural BOLD Season opener, Sweat by Lynn Nottage, directed by Andrea J Dymond, features (front, from left) Shariba Rivers, Linda Gillum, Emmanuel K. Jackson and Gage Wallace, with (back) Jordan Anthony Arredondo and Randy Steinmeyer. Photo by Liz Lauren. Sweat press kit here.

After two years of waiting, Paramount Theatre launched its inaugural BOLD Series in February with Sweat, Lynn Nottage’s acclaimed modern-day drama about life in an American Rust Belt town. The Daily Herald awarded Sweat four stars, adding “if director Andrea J Dymond's scorching revival that inaugurated Paramount Theatre's BOLD Series at the newly remodeled Copley Theatre is any indication of productions to come, audiences are in for a treat.” The Chicago Reader agreed, calling Sweat a “stellar revival…launching a new direction for Aurora’s Paramount Theatre.” Performances are still running through April 24, 2022. For tickets and information, visit, or call the Paramount box office, (630) 896-6666. 

Fun Home

Book by Lisa Kron

Music by Jeanine Tesori

Based on the graphic novel by Alison Bechdel

Directed by Jim Corti and Landree Fleming

August 3-September 18, 2022

Press openings: Wednesday, August 10, and Thursday, August 11, 2022 at

7 p.m.

Welcome to a funeral home unlike any other you’ve seen. Memories linger in the air like snowflakes, and the truth is always opaque. Where finding yourself means looking to the past and seeing yourself reflected in your father, who is exactly the same and still so different than you. It’s a place filled with humor, secrets, anger, unexpected joy, self-revelation and the most confounding thing of all: family. Welcome to Fun Home — a musical like no other. Suggested rating 13+

BULL: a love story

World Premiere

Written by Nancy García Loza

Directed by Laura Alcalá Baker

October 5-November 20, 2022

Press opening: Wednesday, October 12, and Thursday, October 13, 2022 at 7 p.m.

Bull dealt drugs, got caught, and served his time. For a decade, he’s thought about one thing: coming home. On the day Bull is released from prison, he returns to his old Chicago neighborhood, Lakeview, now unrecognizable. Hopeful and eager, he is ready to resume life with his family, only to discover how much has moved on without him. His dream now within grasp, what will it take to get home? Find out in BULL: a love story, a world premiere drama, originally presented as a virtual staged reading via Paramount’s new play development program, The Inception Project, in January, 2021. Suggested rating 13+

Four-show BOLD Series subscriptions are still on sale, ranging from just $134-$148. That’s a “buy two shows, get two shows free” offer. Single tickets to individual performances are $67-$74. To purchase subscriptions, single tickets or for more information, visit, call

(630) 896-6666, or stop by the Paramount box office, 23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora, Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

All four BOLD Series performances are staged in Copley Theatre, located in the North Island Center, 8 E. Galena Blvd., in downtown Aurora. 

About Paramount Theatre

Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., is the center for performing arts and education in Aurora, the second largest city in Illinois. The beautiful, 1,843-seat theater, graced with a strong 1930s Art Deco influence and original Venetian décor, nationally known for its high-quality productions, superb acoustics and historic grandeur, has been downtown Aurora’s anchor attraction since 1931.

After launching its own Broadway Series in 2011, Paramount Theatre grew to be the second largest subscription house in the U.S. Before Covid, more than 41,000 subscribers from all over Chicagoland and the Midwest were enjoying Paramount’s critically acclaimed, 2019-20 Broadway-caliber productions. In addition, Paramount also presents an array of internationally known comedians, musicians, dance troupes and family shows annually.

Paramount Theatre is one of four live performance venues programmed and managed by the Aurora Civic Center Authority. ACCA also oversees downtown Aurora’s newly renovated 165-seat Copley Theatre, home to Paramount’s new BOLD Series, along with the Paramount School of the Arts, RiverEdge Park, the city’s 6,000-seat outdoor summer concert venue, and Stolp Island Theatre, an immersive space opening in summer 2023. 

Paramount Theatre continues to expand its artistic and institutional boundaries under the guidance of Tim Rater, President and CEO, Aurora Civic Center Authority; Jim Corti, Artistic Director, Paramount Theatre; a dedicated Board of Trustees and a devoted staff of live theater and music professionals.

For the latest updates, visit or follow @ParamountAurora on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

August Forman (they/them/theirs) is Jason, seen here puppeteering Tyrone, in Paramount Theatre’s BOLD Series production of Hand to God, the Tony-nominated, darkly humorous horror shocker, puppets included. Performances are May 25-July 10, 2022, at the new Copley Theatre, 8 E. Galena Blvd., in downtown Aurora. Tickets: or (630) 896-6666. Credit: Liz Lauren

No comments:

Post a Comment