David Rabe’s “Hurly Burly” has shocked audiences on Broadway in the ’80s and on the big screen in the ’90s.
Rabe has updated his dark comedy, and Cranston’s Epic Theatre got the rights to produce it.
Directed by Matt Fraza, the three-hour, three-act play is filled with seedy, low-life characters whom will both shock and disgust you. There’s little sympathy for them here.
The action takes place in the Hollywood apartment of Eddie (Jonathan Fisher), a small-time casting director who surrounds himself with losers who spend most of their time hanging out, getting high on drugs and booze, and philosophizing about and searching for meaning in their miserable lives.
They talk of their divorced and/or abandoned wives and kids, their sexual conquests, and their unrewarding occupations. They argue and fight. They abuse women, mentally and physically.
The most despicable character is Phil (David DeAlmo), an actor with no talent, who takes out his frustrations by beating up both men and women. He draws little sympathy, even after his eventual demise.
Mickey (Jason Quinn) serves more as an observer than a participant, showing the least emotion in the group. Artie (Terry Simpson), an unsuccessful scriptwriter, brings a teenage drifter (Betsy Rinaldi) to the apartment and offers her as a gift.
Darlene (Melissa Sciarra Penick) is a photographer who is handed over to Mickey by Eddie, returning to him and causing much verbal conflict. Bonnie (Cherylee Sousa Dumas) is a stripper who will go to bed with anyone at any time.
Put them all together and you have one messed up group of characters.
Every person comes to the table with lots of baggage, explaining but not condoning their characters.
There’s paranoia, hostility, manipulation, denial and misunderstanding throughout the long scenes.
Saying all this, the play has some interesting observations on human nature scattered amongst the often crude dialogue.
The title was taken from “Macbeth,” and the play does have some Shakespearean tragic overtones. The acting is very good, especially Fisher as Eddie and DeAlmo as Phil. Phil brings a contrasting laid back approach to his character, but he has to slow down a bit.
“What was all that about?” Eddie frequently asks his friends after abusive verbal encounters, and you could ask that about the play, which hits heavily on the art, or lack of, communication.
If you like hard-hitting black comedy, you’ll like “Hurly Burly.” The young Saturday night audience did, laughing and reacting to many of the incidents and lines.
“Hurly Burly” is produced by Epic Theatre and performed at Artists’ Exchange’s Theatre 82, located at 82 Rolfe St. in Cranston, through April 26. Tickets are $12 and $15. Go online at www.epictheatre.org or call Artists’ Exchange at 490-9475.
The theatre adjoins a wonderful little café where you can enjoy a beverage of your choice and some fresh bakery products during the two intermissions.