Review “Hands on a Hard Body” (Refuge Theatre): Sound Challenged

Monday, April 1, 2019 Permalink 0

Refuge Theatre presents HANDS ON A HARD BODY.

The premise for this show is timely, relevant and fascinating. The creative team of Doug Wright (book), Amanda Green (lyrics and music), and Trey Anastasio (music) tell the story of survival of the fittest. In oppressed Longview, Texas, desperate citizens compete for a new Nissan “Hardbody” truck. The game has contestants placing a hand on the truck over hours… over days. The winner will be the last person still standing and touching the truck.

Wright creates a plethora of relatable down-on-their-luck characters: unemployed, veterans, retired, opportunists, religious fanatics. The commonality is they all believe they should/will be the winner. The press release was a teaser promising a unique musical experience. HANDS ON A HARD BODY was a contemporary show focused on true American grit. 

Scenic Designer Evan Frank provides a metal framework of a truck that pivots on a pedestal. This is the central focus of the room. Director Christopher Pazdernik surrounds the truck with the contestants. Costume Designer Uriel Gomez dresses them distinctly to define a plethora of personalities. Although the spirited cast seems poised for a win, they can’t beat the bad acoustics. 

The Preston Bradley Center swallowed up the sound. The room is large. The band was loud. And the lyrics were incomprehensible. I couldn’t hear! I missed some of the dialogue and most of the singing. I felt like it was an underwater opera. The harmonies sounded muffled but beautiful. 

Individuals seemed to hit the right notes but I couldn’t hear the words. I was able to decipher some songs, like “It’s a fix”, when some words were actually spoken. I enjoyed the band but they added to the sound challenges. When they sat out in a number like “Joy of the Lord”, the impressive singing finally was heard. 

Although I saw HANDS ON A HARD BODY, I didn’t hear it. I wish Refuge would remount in a different venue with the same cast. 

Running Time: Two hours and thirty minutes with an intermission

The Preston Bradley Center, 941 W. Lawrence

Book by Doug Wright

Lyrics by Amanda Green

Music by Trey Anastasio and Amanda Green

Directed by Christopher Pazdernik

Music direction by Jon Schneidman 

Choreography by Ariel Triunfo

Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays at 8pm

No performances April 5th, 6th 

Added performances April 1st, 4th 

Thru April 27th

Buy Tickets 

All Photos by Nick Roth 

For more Chicago theatre information and reviews, please visit Theatre in Chicago

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