All that the contestants in “Hands on a Hardbody” have to do is keep their hand on a red Nissan truck longer than anybody else. The one who does that can drive it home.
It’s a lot harder than it sounds.
There’s the blazing Texas heat. The six-hour stretch between 15-minute breaks. The 144 hours without sleep. And leaning on the truck is prohibited.
The 10 characters in the New Line Theatre presentation — the first since its 2013 Broadway run — are vastly different from one another. At the start, it’s every man and woman for him or herself in this commentary on economic hardship in America by playwright Doug Wright.
But what they have in common are hope, determination and dire circumstances that a new truck would surely change. After the first 24 hours, their shared desperation, sheer boredom and a religious experience by holy-roller character Norma (Anna Skidis) begin to unite this ragtag group.
It starts with Norma’s giggle, then full-on laughter, then howling, in a convincing performance by Skidis that, by design, continues way past comfort levels. “She feels the spirit,” crusty J.D. (Todd Schaefer) observes, but then it awakens something in him, in all of them.
It starts with a couple of gloved hands keeping the beat on the truck-bed’s top, then a few more. Soon, they all join in and begin to belt out lyrics like, “I feel the joy take my pain away!” while dancing faster and faster around the vehicle. In a playful gesture, young, unemployed would-be stuntman Greg (Ryan Foizey) reaches inside to beep the horn in time to the music.
It’s Norma’s religion that’s sparked these few moments of joy amid the tedious task at hand. But will her higher power take her all the way to win the truck? Or will it be her downfall? Let’s just say I never saw this one coming.
In this video, composers Amanda Green and Trey Anastasio (frontman for the rock band Phish) talk about creating the country-rock-pop score for “Hardbody.”
New Line Theatre's 'Hands on a Hardbody'
Where: Washington University South Campus, 6502 Clayton Rd., 63117
When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday through June 21
How much: $20; $15 students, seniors
Tickets/Information: New Line website