Strong Performances Propel Epic’s Hurlyburly

hurlyThe lives of four self-centered misogynistic men who work in the entertainment industry are laid bare in Epic Theatre Company’s new production of playwright David Rabe’s Hurlyburly.

The dark comedy-drama debuted on April 4 and runs through the 26th.

The story is set in the mid-1980s. Eddie (Jonathan Fisher) shares a house in the Hollywood Hills with Mickey (Jason Quinn). Both men are casting agents who spend their days and nights snorting copious quantities of cocaine, drinking bottle after bottle of booze, and disparaging women.

Eddie’s friend Phil (David DeAlmo) is a struggling actor who hopes to be cast in a new television cop show. Phil is as cynical and sexist as his buddies, and has a violent temper to boot.

Artie (Terry Simpson) is an aspiring screenwriter who is hoping to land a production deal. When the play begins, he brings a guest to the house: Donna (Betsy Rinaldi), a pretty teenage runaway who Artie leaves as a “care package” for the guys to play with.

Darlene (Melissa Sciarra Penick) is Eddie’s girlfriend, who works as a photographer. The two have a tumultuous relationship.

Bonnie (Cherylee Sousa Dumas) is a stripper and the mother of a young daughter. During Act 2, she is pushed out of a moving car by Phil while on a date.

“You’re a bunch of desperate guys,” Artie tells his friends at one point, and the observation describes Eddie, Phil and Mickey perfectly.

Throughout the play’s three-hour length, the men rage at the world when they’re not raging at each other.

Eddie suffers from what Artie calls “terminal toxic nastiness.” After Bonnie tells him about Phil pushing her from the moving car, Eddie reacts with a cold nonchalance.

None of these men really see the women in their lives as real. Darlene, Bonnie and Donna are mere sexual playthings to be discarded when they are no longer of use.

Fisher and DeAlmo give powerhouse performances as Eddie and Phil, who are self-centered, bitter and deeply cynical about life. They are particularly skilled at using a variety of physical postures to reveal their characters’ tormented emotional conditions.

The supporting performances are also top-notch, particularly Quinn, who portrays Mickey as a cold but brutally honest friend and confidante to Eddie.

The modest performing space at Theatre 82 allow the actors to stretch themselves creatively. Although there are no sets to speak of, you do get the impression you are watching the men and women congregating in a posh home in the Hollywood Hills.

The fine direction by Matt Fraza has resulted in an emotionally gripping rollercoaster of a show.

Television theme songs from the 1980s play in the background during the play’s two intermissions, creating an appropriate campy mood.

Hurlyburly will not appeal to everyone. This is a dark, disturbing play about some seriously unpleasant people. If you go, you may find yourself realizing the lives of Hollywood folk are often more bleak and hopeless than our own.

 Hurlyburly runs through April 26. Theatre 82. 82 Rolfe Square, Cranston. For more information, go to  



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