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Lucy Komisar

'Hurlyburly' is vivid portrayal of people who can't connect.
Hollywood becomes a metaphor for people exploiting each other.

"Hurlyburly" by David Rabe. (l-r) Ethan Hawke Bobby Cannavale. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Written by David Rabe. Directed by Scott Elliott.
37 Arts, 450 W. 37 Street.
Opened April 20, 2005.
Reviewed by Lucy Komisar April 22, 2005.
Closes July 3, 2005.

Buy Hurlyburly Tickets

With a fast-paced production by Scott Elliott, "Hurlybury" sometimes takes your breath away with its crudity and meanness, not so much a result of deliberate cruelty as of the sheer failure of human beings to make connections. David Rabe, who wrote the important anti-Vietnam war trilogy ("The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel," "Sticks and Bones," and "Streamers") - about the failure of American politics -- in 1984 turned to Hollywood, seeing it as a metaphor to illuminate the psyches of four separated or divorced men who are personal failures in their relationships and careers.

It's hard to feel sorry for the men. They are truly creepy. The bungalow that Eddie (Ethan Hawke) and Mickey (Josh Hamilton) share in the Hollywood Hills, is the site of visits and interactions among seven people, circling around each other, sleeping and fighting with each other, yet behaving as isolated souls, bargaining for survival or advantage. They live in a society where the strong prey upon the weak. The Hollywood moguls are at the top; the men they hire and fire occupy a lower rung; sexually exploited women fall to the bottom.

The bungalow bachelor quarters are furnished with a fridge that holds little but beer, an audio system, couch, coffee table, and a "Jules and Jim" poster on the wall. The poster is ironic if it is meant to suggest a joyous ménage à troi, or more. But it makes another subtle point: the play is almost cinematic in its reality.

"Hurlyburly" by David Rabe. (l-r)Ethan Hawke, Parker Posey. Photo Carol Rosegg.

Eddie and Mickey live together, but don't like each other. They and their "friends' trade constant hostility. They don't treat women much better. Eddie is afraid of emotional connections. He anaesthetizes himself with pot and cocaine. Still, he exudes energy, wound-up fury. His girlfriend Darlene (a spirited Parker Posey) thinks nothing of going off with the icily detached Mickey. Sparks fly.

Only the women at the bottom of the barrel, the street waif, Donna (played affectingly by Halley Wegryn Gross), and the exotic dancer Bonnie (depicted with sensitivity by Catherine Kellner) who are used by everyone, seems to retain feelings. Artie (a cool, deliberate Wallace Shawn), expressing movie-land amorality, brings the teenager to the bungalow and announces, "Do you want her? You can't say I never gave you anything." The men joke about their exploitation of the lonely Bonnie.

"Hurlyburly" by David Rabe. (l-r )Bobby Cannavale, Catherine Kellner,Wallace Shawn. Photo Carol Rosegg

The end of the line is paranoia, represented by the violent, black-leather-jacketed Phil (Bobby Cannavale), who lives in a coke and alcohol haze that destroys his marriage. Cannavale gives an electric performance.

At one point, there is a diatribe against the times, the neutron bomb, corporate power. There's always a reason for personal disintegration. Sometimes one should look outward to social ills. But the men shown here needed to take a deep hard look inside their own souls. [Komisar]


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