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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Hectic pace keeps 'Hurlyburly' edgy
By Marty Clear, Times correspondent
Published August 14, 2007
TAMPA - The world of David Rabe's Hurlyburly is by no means pleasant. Soulless men abuse drugs, alcohol and women with similar disregard. Drug-induced babble masquerades as philosophy. Paranoia, violence and vacuity form the foundation of every conversation.
The play screams for subtle, nuanced acting and direction. But the Jobsite Theater production chooses instead to ramp up the intensity. The result is a powerful but not quite satisfying three hours of theater.
Rabe has given us a group of miserable characters who inhabit Hollywood in 1984 when the play premiered and work in the movie industry. Their idea of an amusing anecdote is a story about a 6-year-old girl who sat in the front seat of a car while her mother performed oral sex on a stranger in the back. They pass around a homeless young woman, calling her a "sexual Care package."
The challenge for the actors and director is to find the hearts within these wretches, to deliver some reason to care about them. This production is satisfied to merely depict them. It does so memorably, but that's not enough.
Director Jason Vaughan Evans keeps the throttle wide open, setting a manic pace in the first scene and maintaining it throughout. That keeps the extremely dense, talky play from becoming static, but there's no arc, no ebb and flow, to the pace and emotion. Still, it's impressive to watch the mostly excellent cast stay afloat in the torrent of words and ideas.
The nearly plotless play revolves around the friendship of Eddie and Phil, played by Ryan McCarthy and David M. Jenkins. Phil's marriage is breaking up, and for advice and solace, he turns to the selfish, immature Eddie, who never goes more than a few seconds without smoking pot, drinking booze or snorting coke.
McCarthy and Jenkins give frighteningly frantic, committed performances, offset beautifully by Meg Heimstead, excellent as always as the only appealing character (who, for reasons we never discover, cares deeply for Eddie). Katrina Stevenson and Dan Khoury do fine work in smaller but essential roles.
The only inadequate performance comes from the normally reliable Steve Garland, who for some reason delivers almost all his lines with a painfully forced, inappropriate giggle.
People with a heartfelt appreciation for theater, and for acting and playwriting in particular, will likely find this show more edifying than casual theatergoers. It aims very high and at times comes tantalizingly close to achieving its goals. But because it doesn't let us see into the characters' souls, it's more likely to leave its audience enervated than enlightened.
Marty Clear is a Tampa freelance writer who specializes in performing arts. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Jobsite Theater production runs through Aug. 26 at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center's Shimberg Playhouse, 1010 N W.C. MacInnes Place, Tampa. 8 p.m. Thurs.-Sat., 4 p.m. Sun., $19.50-$24.50, plus service charge. (813) 229-7827; www.tbpac.org.