David Rabe’s "Hurly Burly" in a Detour Theatre/Bloomington Area Arts Council production in the intimate Rose Firebay of the John Waldron Arts Center is a potent piece of theatre in an outstanding production. Direction by Richard Perez is taut and always on the mark. Acting ranges from the much more than adequate to the magnificent. The set and costumes are very good.
"Hurly Burly" is set on the edges of Hollywood in the early eighties. It’s a vicious empty time in a vicious empty place. To call the characters in the play "scum" of a highly articulate but low order, gives "scum" a bad name.
Eddie, the dynamic Mike Price, and Mickey, the more laid back Patrick Doolin who share a home are a pair of at least marginally successful Hollywood casting directors. Their frequent guests are Artie, the bemused Steve Heise, a script writer who’s always a lunch or a signature away from a deal and Phil, the passionate Sebastian Tejeda, a marginally successful actor with a leaning toward violence.
When we first meet Eddie, he’s preparing for the day by imbibing or considering quite an array of pharmaceuticals. There’s cocaine to get up, qualudes to get down, marijuana to smooth things out and beer for any synapses not already suitably medicated. The two things that Eddie is avoiding are food and coffee. As he sagely observes, "Caffeine can kill you."
Women also flow threw Eddie and Mickey’s living room. To say that the women of "Hurly Burly" are badly treated would be an understatement. Donna, a wandering high school aged hitchhiker, played with a certain worn innocence by Allison Baker-Garrison, arrives when Artie, the script writer, picks her up and brings her over as a sex gift for the boys. The lovely but vulnerable Darlene, Stephanie Harrison, was first Mickey’s girl and then when Eddie implores him, Mickey passes her on to him. The amiable exotic dancer Bonny, played with warmth by Amy Wendling, is brought over by Eddie to soothe Phil’s anxieties. Physical violence is also part of the picture of the degradation of women. The violent Phil hits a surprised Donna and even pushes Bonny out of a moving car. In both cases the guys immediately accuse the women of causing the injury with the question, "What did you do?"
The center of "Hurly Burly" at the Waldron is Mike Price as Eddie. Eddie is a whirlwind of energy and energies. He’s self-centered to an amazing degree. The world from his perception of the most minor details, through his relationships with other people and on up to and including the possible effects of the new neutron bomb all revolve around Eddie. Price makes the most of the crazy logic of Eddie’s long rambling speeches and rapid mood swings. Sometimes, it’s interesting. Sometimes it’s quite funny. Always it’s a treat to watch.
David Rabe’s "Hurly Burly" at the John Waldron Arts Center has its three final performances this Friday and Saturday at eight and Sunday at two.
Frankly, sometimes "Hurly Burly" is more of a bruising treatment than a treat, but it’s a fascinating piece of theatre, a showcase for some fine character acting, given a high polish in the current production.