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Theater Review: 'Hands on a Hardbody' -- 3 stars

"Hands on a Hard Body"

"Hands on a Hard Body" Credit: "Hands on a Hard Body"

Hands on a Hardbody
3 stars

One of the simplest, purest ways to create a drama is to expose a competition or game where various individuals are all motivated to win - preferably at any cost.

There are two great musicals written from this vantage point: "A Chorus Line and "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee."

Now comes "Hands on a Hardbody," a new musical based on the 1997 documentary film about an endurance contest in Texas where people compete to win a new pick-up truck by seeing who can hold his or her hand on the vehicle for the longest period of time over several days.

With only small breaks every few hours and the hot sun above, the contestants eventually confront the effects of sleep deprivation and other forms of mental and physical illness.

The musical, which has an underwhelming but heartfelt country-rock score by Phish frontman Trey Anastasio and Amanda Green and a penetrating book by Pulitzer-winning playwright Doug Wright, creates an environment where nearly all the participants are suffering economically and are in desperate need of a financial windfall.

Neil Pepe's production is quite gripping - most impressive is how the actors manipulate the vehicle and perform dance choreography while their hands are still attached to it.

If you go: "Hands on a Hardbody" plays an open run at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. 256 W. 47th St., 877-250-2929,

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