Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2019-07-10
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



THEATER REVIEW Hands on a Hardbody
by Lauren Emily Whalen

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Playwright: Doug Wright ( book ),

Amanda Green ( lyrics ), Trey Anastasio and Amanda Green ( music ). At: Refuge Theatre Project at the Preston Bradley Center, 941 W. Lawrence Ave. Tickets: $30; . Runs through: April 27

Midway through Hands on a Hardbody's first act, a woman starts singing along with her headphones. Her nine companions—all competing against one another to win a pickup truck in a small Texas town—join in one by one.

The gospel tune picks up pace with clapping and moving in a circle around the truck, each person keeping one hand on the vehicle in keeping with the contest rules. For about four minutes, 10 people temporarily form a tight, joyful bond.

If only the rest of the show were that powerful. Hardbody boasts composer Trey Anastasio, part of the legendary jam band Phish, and an intriguing true story inspired by a 1997 documentary film. Sadly, Refuge Theatre Project's Chicago premiere doesn't live up to the hype, thanks to a boring book, bloated runtime and score that is more cliché than original.

Times are tough in Longview, Texas, but everyone rallies for the annual Hands on a Hardbody event, in which ten people chosen at random compete to see who can, well, touch a Nissan pickup the longest. There are 15-minute breaks every six hours, but other than that, one hand ( protected by cotton gardening gloves ) must be on the vehicle at all times. From a stoic Marine ( Max Cervantes ) to an outspoken mother of six ( Katherine Condit ), everyone's in it to win it, but that's before oppressive heat, shady politics and family secrets come into play.

Certainly, musicals have been based on stranger topics: Teeth, based on a movie about a teenage girl with vagina dentata, workshopped on the East Coast last summer. The problem with Hardbody is its lack of specifics. Each character has a thoroughly predictable conflict, from the sleazy dealership manager ( Dan Gold ) trying to keep his business afloat to the wide-eyed UPS worker ( Alli Atkenson ) who just wants to travel. Characters of color either make cameo appearances, such as Jared David Michael Grant's boisterous smooth talker, or exist solely to teach others about prejudice, as is the case with Sebastian Summers' ambitious veterinary student. And when past winner Benny Perkins ( Derek Fawcett, channeling his best Matthew McConaughey ) reveals his inner tragedies in the 11 o'clock number, the audience is expected to forgive two-plus hours of the character's casual racism, not to mention gaslighting and outright bullying.

Apart from the aforementioned gospel songs, Anastasio and Green's soundtrack is largely forgettable, and Doug Wright's dialogue sounds straight out of a sitcom about Southerners written in Los Angeles. Though Hands mostly falters due to its writing, Ariel Triunfo's choreography—unoriginal even in its somewhat limited capacity—doesn't help matters. Nor do the productions' copious microphone and acoustic issues, only a few of which could be attributed to opening-night roughness as opposed to, perhaps, an insufficient tech. Even standout performances, like Molly Kral's sweet and stalwart woman of faith and Roy Samra's wistful love interest, can't save Hardbody from itself.

Refuge Theatre Project has found a niche by presenting underproduced musicals with top-notch performers. Despite the latter, the results are often hit or miss: Some shows aren't produced much, for a reason. For every High Fidelity, Refuge's Jeff Award-winning runaway hit, there's a Lysistrata Jones, a clunky Greek myth-turned-pop musical that the company unwisely staged in an actual gym. Since early 2016, Refuge has chased another High Fidelity; however, because of major flaws, Hardbody is nowhere close to being a worthy successor.

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

THEATER The Music Man 2019-07-20 - Author: Meredith Wilson ( book, music & lyrics ) At: Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn. Tickets: 312-443-3800;; $25-$142. Runs through: Aug. 18 ...

Gay News

About Face Youth Theatre Ensemble'sm20th Anniversary: 20/20 2019-07-19 - CHICAGO — The About Face Youth Theatre Ensemble is celebrating its 20th anniversary with the world premiere of 20/20, an exhilarating dive into ...

Gay News

Sideshow Theatre Company 2019-20 season to premiere X, Pro-Am 2019-07-18 - CHICAGO ( July 17, 2019 ) — Sideshow Theatre Company is pleased to announce its 2019-20 Season, launching this fall with the U.S. ...

Gay News

Goodman Theatre announces 2019/2020 season 2019-07-18 - ( Chicago, IL ) Goodman Theatre announces the casting and creative teams for its 2019/2020 "Theater That Moves" Season openers. The season kicks-off ...

Gay News

THEATER True West 2019-07-17 - Playwright: Sam Shepard At: Steppenwolf Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted St. Tickets: Runs through: Aug. 25 What is the "true west?" Deserts ...

Gay News

First Floor Theater to begin Season 8 with Sugar in Our Wounds 2019-07-17 - By Donja R. Love, Directed by FFT Company Member Mikael Burke, October 19, 2019 - November 23, 2019 On a plantation during ...

Gay News

Promethean's 14th season to explore status of women, societies past, imagined 2019-07-17 - The rights and roles of women in society will be examined in Promethean Theatre Ensemble's 2019-20 season via three plays all penned or ...

Gay News

Barrel of Monkeys Presents Free Summer Workshops, Performances 2019-07-17 - CHICAGO ( July 16, 2019 ) — Barrel of Monkeys, one of Chicago's leaders in arts education, will present free creative writing workshops ...

Gay News

THEATER REVIEW Wolf Play 2019-07-17 - Playwright: Hansol Jung At: The Gift Theatre, 4802 N. Milwaukee, Chicago. Tickets: Runs through: Aug 18 The Gift Theatre's midwest premiere ...

Gay News

THEATER Strange Heart Beating 2019-07-16 - Playwright: Kristin Idaszak At: Cloudgate Theatre at the Frontier, 1106 W. Thorndale Ave. Tickets:; $5-$45. Runs through: July 28 There's potential for ...


Copyright © 2019 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.







About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.