Monday, March 18, 2013

Hands on a Hardbody

(I saw an early preview of Hands on a Hardbody, so take this review with the proverbial grain of salt.)

A bunch of people stand around a pickup truck, each trying to win the vehicle by being the last one with a hand on it. They get only a 15-minute break every 6 hours, and the contest lasts for days. Meanwhile, the characters sing about why the truck is important to them: money, mostly, but also pride, competitiveness, a desire to accomplish something.

Clearly not everyone's cup of tea, Hands on a Hardbody,succeeds--or fails--based on how much you like the music and how much you care about the people. I did like the music and I did care the people, and I found the show largely engaging, although also frustrating.

The main problem is that the lyrics (by Amanda Green) are not always clear, and since they are unusually integral to this show--perhaps the most important component--this is a serious flaw. In addition, the book, by Doug Wright, relies too much on cliches. (I understand that his choices may represent the actual people from the documentary, but he still could have mixed it up a bit.) And the eventual winner is a disappointment. (Again, this might reflect reality, but, well, ho-hum.)


In this nicely multicultural show, the winner is a white man, which seems to me a boring choice. Also, if you are going to make him the winner, take time to actually develop his character! We learn early on that he has a badly injured leg. And then his leg is never mentioned again (unless it came up in one of the unintelligible parts). He stands around, and after five or six days, he wins. He gets bonky, yes, but he never really has to face an obstacle.

[end of spoiler]

Hands on a Hardbody has been knocking around for a while; it had a successful run in La Jolla, Calif, last year. I don't know if this means that the show is largely frozen or if they are still working on it. Overall, it's in pretty good shape--if you could just understand the lyrics!

(tdf ticket, rear orchestra, audience left)

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