Hurlyburly | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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HURLYBURLY, Firstborn Productions, at Zebra Crossing Theatre. David Rabe's three-hour 1984 epic is almost an argument to drop the big one, elaborately exposing a passel of Hollywood phonies--two misogynistic, pill-popping, coke-snorting casting directors, an anal-retentive screenwriter, and a desperately violent bit player. Sprawling, sloppy, self-indulgent, and ultimately too infuriatingly accurate to dismiss, this is a loose cannon of a script--a true hurly-burly. Rabe's gloriously verbose characters analyze feelings to death, confusing freedom with spontaneity and achieving neither. Though these solipsists evade responsibility, their actions speak unequivocally: they're dead to others' pain, paralyzed by their own and by serial sellouts.

Though several actors are too young for their parts, Gregory D. Gerhard's staging is appropriately toxic, igniting Rabe's gallows humor and digging beneath the macho bluster to plumb its emptiness. (It's toxic in another way--almost a pack of cigarettes get lit in this small space during the performance.) Jason Jones exudes alienation as the passive-aggressive narcissist Eddie, who says he's "distracted by myself." As Eddie's pet psychopath, David Beninati reinvents the bully. And despite or because of the abuse they endure, Rabe's women cut through the crap. Andrea Washburn is resiliently rational as a homeless midwesterner, her sheer simplicity an antidote to the poisonous people. As Bonnie, a good-time girl who's treated like an inflatable doll, Carolina Hann achieves something like dignity--no easy feat given Rabe's take on humanity.

--Lawrence Bommer

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