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'Permission' review: Robert Askins' new, unfinished comedy

From left, Lucas Near-Verbrugghe, Justin Bartha, Elizabeth Reaser

From left, Lucas Near-Verbrugghe, Justin Bartha, Elizabeth Reaser and Nicole Lowrance in a scene from Robert Askins' "Permission," at MCC Theater. Credit: Jenny Anderson

Robert Askins' "Hand to God," an irreverent sketch about the devil in a hand puppet, had its Obie-winning premiere downtown at MCC Theater before moving to Broadway and amassing major Tony nominations. Now his next comedy, "Permission," is back in the same tiny playhouse. The subject -- devotion and hypocrisy among conflicted Texas Christians -- remains the same.

But this one, about something called Domestic Christian Discipline, feels unfinished, as if Askins had a flashy idea but never figured out with to do with it. Two married couples -- including one played by Justin Bartha and Elizabeth Reaser -- learn about the positives and negatives of a male-dominated cult that believes they are spanking for Jesus. Butt falsies, devised by costume designer Paloma Young to protect the actors, are impressive. That's about it.

WHERE Lortel Theatre, 121 Christopher St.

INFO $69-$75; 212-352-3101;


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