In the showroom of Luther Cadillac near Rosedale, with a wall of windows looking out at the traffic whizzing by on Highway 36, the show takes place in, on, and around a big red Nissan pickup truck. An indoor showroom during the longest Minnesota winter in recent memory is not quite outdoors in the blazing Texas heat, but we can pretend. Ten people have entered a contest at a failing dealership (which desperately needs the business they're hoping this contest will spark) to win a truck by simply standing next to it with their hand on it. The last person standing wins - simple as that. Throughout the course of the show we learn each person's story about why they want, no need, to win this truck, and how it will change their life. Whether it's to pay for veterinary school, or support their children, or go to Hollywood, or recover from a job lost due to injury, all ten of them are in a desperate place. During the 5+ days of the contest, relationships are made or broken, truths are revealed, and one by one the contestants drop off until we have a winner. These very human and relatable stories create many tender moments, and give this show based on a ridiculous concept real poignancy. Because why would anyone agree to stand outside in 100 degree heat for days on end if they weren't in a place where their job, their family, their relationship, or their country has failed them? And soon you begin to realize that the truck is a metaphor for whatever in life is important to us, that we try so desperately to hold on to, and sometimes slips from our grasp when we're not looking.
|the cast of Hands on a Hardbody (photo by Unser Imagery)
The cast includes a few familiar faces and many news ones; MMT is great at discovering and giving space for new and lesser known #TCTheater talent. Highlights are many, including Marie Finch-Koinuma and Emily Rosenberg as the sweet young couple who meet at the truck and decide to run away together; James Lane as a previous winner who is a jerk you love to hate but can't help but empathize with in the end; Christian Unser as the Willy Loman-esque down-on-his luck blue collar worker and the lovely-voiced Aly O'Keeffe as his long-suffering wife; Roland Hawkins II with a big voice and energy to match as the Snickers bar- and ladies-loving Ronald; Kyle Doherty expressing raw vulnerability as the recently returned vet; Gianna Schiller and Charlie Morgan as the typically smarmy car dealers; and John Goodrich as the amiable and ever-present radio DJ host of the contest.
I love regional premieres; I love rare musical gems; I love the creativity of unconventional theater spaces; I love a show that makes me laugh and cry, think and feel; I love a cast and creative team that puts their whole heart into a project; I love not having to drive into or through Minneapolis or St. Paul to see a show. Hands on a Hardbody is all of the above and more. There are only 8 shows left - don't miss it!