David Rabe's 1984 play is infrequently revived, but the Myriad Sea Theatre is just the right company to do it, and the St Mark's Theater, down below street level, is just the place for it. The play is about Hollywood heavy-hitter-wannabes (a.k.a. pot-smoking, coke-sniffing lowlifes), and despite the theatrical heightening of reality, they are real and recognizable.
The production wasn't settled into a specific time period - while the program (as per the script) says it takes place "a little while ago," the furniture in the house shared by Eddie (Michael Castellano) and Mickey (Jonathan Strait) was stuck in the '70s, the music used was heavily '80s, and the costumes had a '90s touch (set, costumes, lighting uncredited). Director Marieke Gaboury used this to her advantage as the real business at hand is the timeless preoccupation with power - grasping/holding/losing it. The whole cast moved around the set with the familiarity, ease, and disgust of those who don't recognize defeat when they're standing face to face with it.
The house is also a way station for Phil, an actor (Whalen J. Laurence), and Artie, a producer (Danny Zorn). The women in their lives are toys, whether they're professionals like Darlene (Jennifer Carlson), hookers like Bonnie (Erin Mercer), or pick-ups like the underage Donna (Lina Roessler), whose mantra "You wanna fuck me or something?" is as emblematic as Eddie's vacuuming cocaine up his nose.
The roles are all high-wire acts, the characters always teetering on the brink of disaster. The cast was in firm, jaw-dropping control, and if the people they played were never sympathetic, they were completely absorbing. Castellano made Eddie, the perennial loser, worth watching and listening to - and this is not easy, as he talks practically non-stop, often at breakneck speed. But Eddie is not benign - he was all the scarier for the naturalness of Castellano's acting. As Phil, Laurence was truly frightening when he turned violent, and fascinating to watch as he went 'round and 'round and up and down struggling with his love/hate attraction to his wife. Strait's Mickey was a smoothly operating snake, whose placid exterior just barely covers the venom. Zorn's shoulders, hunched around his ears, gave away Artie's real feelings about the meaning of his good fortune.
Even though the women are treated like shit, Carlson, Roessler and Mercer all rose above their deus ex machina status, and none made easy pleas for sympathy. You can cringe when you see them go back for more, but you wil not be surprised. And it doesn't really matter anyway, because the male-male connection is more real, more important than anything else.
Because everything everyone does here is about one-upsmanship,
and fooling themselves that the bullshit flying around is a valuable
substance. This is the sourest comedy you're ever likely to see
- not to everyone's taste, and definitely not pretty. The insistent
hyperactivity does wear you down after a while, and the play eventually
begins to chase its own tail. Good thing they've got plenty of
drugs to get them through it all. And who knows what they were
smoking on that stage, but it smelled real.
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Copyright 2000 David Mackler