Presented by the New Group in association with the Kennedy/Marshall Company, casting by Judy Henderson, C.S.A., at the Acorn Theatre, 410 W. 42 St., NYC, Jan. 27-March 19.
To say that the four principal confreres in David Rabe's epic 1984 play—two casting-director roommates, a two-bit actor, and a writer—are loathsome misogynists is to state the obvious. But three hours with these lowlifes are made bearable by the raw vibrancy of Rabe's writing, the voyeuristic fascination of watching supremely unlikable people, and, under Scott Elliott's masterful direction, the virtuosity of the performances. (Though trimmed from its original length, this is a long evening all the same.)
Ethan Hawke is the big name here. And from his first bare-bottomed, tousled, druggy appearance to his redemptive epiphany, he delivers a dynamic performance as a lost soul basically looking for love.
But everyone's superb: Bobby Cannavale is Phil, the violently paranoid actor, convincingly radiating a powder-keg temper; Josh Hamilton is Mickey, the coldly cynical womanizer; and Wallace Shawn is Artie, the sleazy writer.
And then there are the women, treated so abominably by the men, all captured in telling detail: Parker Posey as Darlene, bouncing back and forth between Eddie and Mickey; Catherine Kellner as Bonnie, the likable go-go dancer, always ready for casual sex; and Halley Wegryn Gross as Donna, the teenage waif, deposited at Eddie's place by Artie, an easy lay for all takers.
It's easy to dismiss the men as coked-up ne'er-do-wells. What redeems them—at least partly—is each man's awareness of his own foibles and alienation, and there is some poignancy beneath the surface. The play is not without laughs, mostly generated by incredulity at the men's piggishness.
Derek McLane's chaotic bachelor-pad set and Jeff Mahshie's costumes perfectly capture the dissolute lifestyles of these characters and the era. Jason Lyons' lighting and Ken Travis' sound design add to the first-rate production elements.
Elliott's sure-footed revival is clearly one of the events of the theatrical season and should not be missed.