ACTION CENTRAL Fisher and Quinn. [Photo by Kevin Broccoli]
The Pulitzer Prize Board, which likes to honor theatrical gems of Americana, may have been remiss in not nominating David Rabe’s 1984 Hurlyburly. But it’s a brutal three hours about a quartet of fringe Hollywood guys — as American as football fans and as misogynistic as the Taliban — who are exaggerated representatives of certain American male attitudes toward women. Not a topic for a patriotic spotlight.
Epic Theatre Company is presenting a magnificent production of the must-see play, directed with careful timing by Matt Fraza (through April 26).
There are script weaknesses. Everyone here, women as well as men, usually talks like college dorm freshmen philosophizing. Everyone is constantly and perfectly articulating their inner thoughts and reasonings for what they have said or are about to say. Since this is a naturalistic play, that could be jarring as well as unnatural if the actors weren’t in top form, which these are.
The action centers around Eddie (Jonathan Fisher) who, along with Mickey (Jason Quinn), is a casting director. The first conflict here results from Eddie having done what he thinks he should do rather than what he wanted to do — namely, letting Mickey and Eddie’s new girlfriend Darlene (Melissa Sciarra Penick), whom he was serious about, go out together the night before. They seemed to make a connection when he introduced them, and he wanted to do the right thing for a friend. I know — idiot. Of course, Mickey and Darlene hook up.
That decision says a lot about Eddie. First of all, we see that he isn’t in touch with his feelings. Secondly, that he values male friendship more than his sex life.
Liquor bottles take up a third of the kitchen table in Eddie’s apartment, where all of this takes place, and everyone is swilling almost as much as they are talking. So the rampant poor decision-making can be thought of as pour decision-making. Also, Eddie is doing coke at 8:45 in the morning, pills are popped like M&Ms, and the grass is not the lawn variety.
The men here have dodgy relationship histories. For example, Eddie is divorced, and the first crisis we witness is his distraught friend and out-of-work-actor Phil (David DeAlmo), who regrets messing up with the ex-wife he wants to reconcile with. He hit her because she kept interrupting his spiel about an idea he has to scam Las Vegas. “I went too far this time,” he admits. As we’re beginning to see, to say he has anger issues is like saying Smaug is feisty. By the time he throws newly met Bonnie (Cherylee Sousa Dumas) out of her own car — while it’s moving — we’re not very surprised.
These guys treat women like sports cars they’re leasing, freely tossing keys to each other. When their friend Artie (Terry Simpson) stops by, he brings a girl, in his words, “Like a CARE package. Don’t say I never give you anything.” The young woman is a hitchhiker he picked up, Donna (Betsy Rinaldi), and conveniently she is as casually promiscuous as they all are.