2005_02_artshawkeposey.jpgThe new hit off-Broadway production by the New Group of Hurlyburly is reportedly transfering to Broadway, we are especially glad that we had the chance a few nights ago to see it at the intimate Acorn Theatre at 42nd Street's Theatre Row complex.

The David Rabe-penned Tony-winning play was originally a big hit back in 1984, when some brilliant casting director came up with the dream ensemble of Christopher Walken, William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, Judith Ivey, Cynthia Nixon, and Harvey Keitel, and Jerry Stiller, all directed by Mike Nichols. This time around, the casting person was hardly a slouch either, recruiting a stellar cast consisting of Parker Posey, Bobby Cannavale, Ethan Hawke, Wallace Shawn, Josh Hamilton, Catherine Kellner and Halley Wegryn Gross, the best ensemble cast we have seen in quite a while. [Hawke and Posey pictured at right.]

The play is set in the eighties in the Hollywood Hills. Period details are nailed perfectly, from the Thompson Twins and Feelies albums (yes, lps) laying around and Blondie and Talking Heads heard as incidental music, to the retro-commercials shown on the very eighties looking TV set.

The play is ostensibly about a rat pack of low to mid-level Hollywood sleazoids - actors, casting directors, and producers. Work is spoken about in passing, but mostly the talk is about women, and its not pretty. Misogyny runs rampant in this group, especially typified by Cannavale's Phil, a street tough actor wannabe who beats his women, and at one point, throws one out of a moving car, and by Shawn's producer-type character Artie, who brings over a homeless girl as something like a sex slave for the guys to share.

2005_02_artshurlyburly.jpgThere's not a lot of plot here, and the play mainly seems to serve as an excercise in watching the secret lives of men when they're alone together, discussing their true feelings (or there lack of) when it comes to women. Meanwhile, the scenes where women do actually enter their space are some of the best, with Keener outstanding as one of Phil's victims, and a perfect Posey as a photographer who gets involved with Hawke's Eddie. We must mention Posey's crazy 80's hair, which kept bringing to mind Grace Slick, or Kelly Lynch in The Woman In Red.

Ethan Hawke is a revelation here. Honestly, we never knew he had this much raw talent. He is the first person we see in the play, lying on the sofa, with his butt crack showing, an apt image for this very revealing performance. Cannavale also really gives a knock out performance as the truly disturbing Phil.

2005_02_artsehdrycleaning.jpgAll technical contributions are excellent, as is Scott Elliott's direction. Be forewarned though that at just over three hours, and with only one brief ten minuted intermission, the play does feel slow at times. For the most part though, we found it highly entertaining, and strongly recommend it, as we can't imagine a finer ensemble worth seeing.

Hurlyburly runs until March 19th. You can find a full schedule of performances and ticket information here.

[Top photo: Josh Hamilton, Ethan Hawke and Wallace Shawn. Bottom photo: Ethan Hawke and Bobby Cannavale. All photography by Carol Rosegg.]