BY STEVEN J. FERRARI
The 1980s are remembered as a decade of decadence, as successful yuppies indulged in booze, drugs and other vices. The indulgence was not limited to New York City, as stories about 1980s Hollywood have reached legendary status.
Those legends can be attributed, in part, to “Hurlyburly,” a 1984 Broadway show originally directed by Mike Nichols. The show has gone through a number of variations over the years, as a feature film in 1998 (starring Sean Penn and Kevin Spacey) and a revised two-act version Off-Broadway in 2005, with Ethan Hawke and Bobby Cannavale.
The Variations Theatre Group has revived David Rabe’s two-act version of the play for a series of performances at the Chain Theatre in Long Island City. The production, which runs just about three hours, does a wonderful job capturing the caustic and bombastic feel of the 1980s and nights fueled by drugs and alcohol.
The play’s story focuses on a group of friends caught up in their own problems while trying to navigate Hollywood. Roommates and casting directors Eddie (Kirk Gostkowski) and Mickey (Deven Anderson) fight over women; aspiring actor Phil (Brandon Scott Hughes) looks for his big break while he debates divorcing or reconciling with his wife.
Much like people who were successful in the 1980s, it is very difficult to like any of the main characters in the show, but not because the actors do a bad job. Quite the opposite, actually. The characters are unlikeable because they lack moral character, looking out for themselves with little concern for the other people in their lives.
While Eddie, Mickey and Phil take up much of the show’s stage time, Rachel Cora’s Donna and Jacklyn Collier’s Bonnie stole the show during their moments under the spotlight.
The presentation of the theater also added to the feel of the show. The stage at the Chain is immersed in a small room, with a row of chairs on either side and two at the back. As the characters went off on their tangents, or continued their arguments, the actors walked in front of almost everyone on either side, adding to the feeling of being in Eddie and Mickey’s living room.
“Hurlyburly” had its debut show Wednesday night, with shows running through March 1. Tickets cost $18. For information or to buy a ticket, visit www.variationstheatregroup.com or call (866) 811-4111.
Reach Steven J. Ferrari at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 122, email firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @stevenferrari.