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‘Hurly’: So intense it’s funny

ESCAPE to Live Theater

Posted: July 30, 2008 12:20 a.m.
Updated: September 30, 2008 5:02 a.m.
 

Let's set the scene. It was the opening night of "HurlyBurly" at the Repertory East Playhouse in Newhall Friday night, and the assembled audience members were mostly avid Rep supporters, made more enthusiastic with free wine.

Okay, so the energy was up from the start and maybe those attending the next performance wouldn't have as much fun, but I doubt it.

The play, and the actors, kick butt right from the start.

But hear this. This is not a play for children or those whose sensibilities are easily tweaked.

Near-constant alcohol, marijuana and cocaine use are portrayed, cursing is rampant - including far too many F-bombs - and the violence is often threatening and unending.

That being said, if you appreciate driving dialogue, high energy and painful introspection in your plays, go see "HurlyBurly." It runs long, at about three hours including intermissions, and, when the wine wears off, you might find yourself a bit fatigued toward the end, when everything goes wrong for the characters and the funny turns tragic.

The play, written by David Rabe in the early 1980s, concerns three low-level show business wannabes in a cramped Hollywood apartment. The trio; the foul-mouthed leader Eddie (Mikee Schwinn), the effeminate intellectual Mickey (Phillip Pechacek), and the ignorant pothead Phil (Ovington Michael Owston).

The actors are perfectly cast in their various roles. Mikee Schwinn, as Eddie, turns couch-slouching banter into a half-lidded art. Ovington Michael Owston, as Phil, is intensely and tragically flawed, and you alternately find yourself wanting to comfort him or just slap him. Either way, you can't take your eyes off him.

You especially cringe when Phil brags about his "sperm being amazing" because he's fathered several children. He wants to go back to his ex-wife and help raise them, but his wild mood swings and intensely violent outbursts (for seemingly no reason) should keep this guy as far away from kids as possible.

Schwinn's character is selfish and overbearing, while Mickey is just a pompous boor. In one scene, he breaks up with his girlfriend, Darlene (Pechacek's wife, Kristen), in a ridiculous, longwinded speech which seems to exist for one reason - so Rabe can say, "Hey, I'm smarter than you, nah, nah, nah."

Daniel Lench, as Artie, practically turns himself inside out to make his plot points and generally brightens every scene he is in - which, unfortunately, isn't very many.

As mentioned, the ladies' parts were written with a misogynist's pen. They serve no purpose except as sexual toys or harpies who cause the men in the play no end of pain.

There should be no apologies for this, because it is primarily a story about three selfish and sexist guys.

But when the women do take the stage, they each bring a charming breath of fresh air.

Leslie Connelly, as Donna, is so cute and numbly sweet you want to pinch her rosie-red cheeks.

Overall, if you want to watch people rip and tear at each other and bring life down on themselves like a load of rocks - and get a few of laughs in the process - go see "HurlyBurly."

The play, while written for "mature audiences," isn't really mature at all, as none of the characters exhibit any adult behavior whatsoever. Nevertheless, it is complelling in its own sick, dark, perverted way.

"HurlyBurly" runs through Aug. 2 at the Repertory East Playhouse, located at 24266 Main Street in Newhall.

For reservations or ticket information, call 288-0000 or visit www.repeastplayhouse.org.

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