THE TIME TRIAL, Steep Theatre Company. Jack Gilhooley’s play about the stuck lives of small-town southern youth is undercut by caricature: the women are easy, the men are violent, and everybody is brainless. Seven friends high on booze and pot watch the time trial of a car-racing champion who’s returned to town. Gilhooley hammers home his one point–that the only way out of their rancid life is self-destruction–and even sums it up in a trite monologue at the end.

The turgid pace set by director Lauren Golanty seems intended to make the play feel weightier but only succeeds in making it duller. Pulling in the opposite direction are the performers, who tend to take their dark roles less than seriously, each playing the dumb hick for laughs. However, two actors stand out, giving their roles a restless intelligence. Kelli Cousins as the driver’s former girlfriend and Alex Gillmor as the guy’s long-term admirer show us the anguish behind the facade. These characters know they’ll never escape and hate themselves for it. Scenic, lighting, and sound designer Tony Adams adeptly captures the buzzing roar of the track.