Hurlyburly | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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HURLYBURLY, Strawdog Theatre Company. Blah, blah, blah, as one character in Hurlyburly consistently remarks. This 210-minute ordeal keeps cropping up, a rant chronicling an ugly decade that for some reason has outlived the 80s. Maybe David Rabe's tirade against Hollywood's sleazoid sexism, drugs, and violence appeals to actors because it's impossible to overplay his solipsistic scumbags, blowhards who've permanently fused selfishness and stupidity.

Offering the breathless discovery that Tinseltown abounds in phonies, Hurlyburly exposes four friends marginally connected to the TV trade: Eddie, a passive-aggressive cokehead who uses too many words for too few feelings; his cynical roommate, Mickey, who wields a shield of sarcasm; Artie, an actor who actually believes in the business; and Phil, a cruel, self-pitying sociopath. The women--all victimized in some way--are superior. So are serial arsonists.

Director Richard Shavzin tackles the play with fitting fury, but it's spirit expended in a waste of shame. In fact, doing Hurlyburly well is worse than doing it badly: a less sure touch might accidentally expose more humanity in the script. Still, Michael Dobbs brings a mumbling menace to the manipulative Eddie, Bart Petty as Phil exemplifies the toxicity of testosterone, and Stephanie Manglaras, Jennifer Avery, and Stacy Parker deliver to varying degrees what the play badly needs: righteous rage.

--Lawrence Bommer

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