The New Group’s revival of David Rabe’s Hurlyburly confirms it as a major play, so absorbing bit by bit that by the time its three hours seem overlong, it is over. The superlative cast of its 1984 premiere is, with one exception, matched in Scott Elliott’s apt staging. The story concerns Eddie and Mickey, small-time casting directors sharing a house in Hollywood; their actor or agent friends; and their current female interests, along with lots of drink, drugs, and sex. Also their unseen wives and ex-wives, and abandoned children. Forced levity and genuine despair pervade their chattering lives. There are strained relationships and mere one-night stands, and unceasing palaver. Some are haunted by metaphysical problems, some wallow in cynicism; all live rudderless for the moment.
The talk is always spellbinding in its ludicrous philosophizing, stinging repartee, and convolutedly halting syntax struggling toward an elusive authenticity. Eddie’s numbing disintegration is commandingly conveyed by Ethan Hawke, and his actor friend Phil’s violent unraveling no less powerfully by Bobby Cannavale. Josh Hamilton is masterly as the sardonic Mickey, Wallace Shawn hilarious as the weaselly Artie, and Parker Posey and Catherine Kellner do splendidly by differently troubled women, high and low. Only Halley Wegryn Gross, as an amiable drifter and anybody’s lay, is poor in a role that the young Cynthia Nixon so movingly originated.