I saw a preview performance of the David Rabe play Hurlyburly last night at the Acorn Theatre on Theatre Row. I hadn't seen the earlier productions on Broadway or the movie adaptation.

This production, directed by Scott Elliott, had the following cast:

Phil - Bobby Cannavale

Mickey - Josh Hamilton

Eddie - Ethan Hawke

Bonnie - Catherine Kellner

Darlene - Parker Posey

Artie - Wallace Shawn

Donna - Halley Wegryn Gross

The play revolves around the interactions of a couple cocaine-charged Hollywood types living in Los Angeles in the 80's. The play opens with Eddie lying on the sofa in his apartment, ass crack showing through his boxers, when Phil bursts in. From then on, I counted just a few moments when Eddie wasn't smoking dope, snorting cocaine, downing Jack Daniels or beer, or popping ludes or valium.

Phil is an emotional volcano, recently separated from Suzy (he explains after he burst in that he struck her during their latest argument), and you come to understand that their relationship is doomed to be tumultuous because Phil is unstable. He's always either breaking up with Suzy or trying to reconcile. Why is Eddie friends with Phil?

Mickey is Eddie's roommate, a smug, cynical, and saracastic slickster who receives most of the plays most comical lines (I can only imagine the zest with which Kevin Spacey played Mickey in the movie) and wardrobe (Josh Hamilton sports a porn star mustache and is constantly changing from one Miami Vice inspired outfit into another). Mickey seems to care about little but enjoys skewering all around him. Artie is a producer of some sort who drops in at one point with Donna, a stray he found in an elevator. He leaves her for Eddie and his buddies as a sexual "care package."

Most of them have artificial relationships with each other, but they don't care. At one point, Eddie asks Mickey after one stinging barb, "What kind of friendship is this?"

Mickey responds with a shrug: "Adequate."

At another point, Bonnie, a dancer and mother of one who the guys all know to be loose, is thrown out of her own car by Phil. She comes back to Eddie's apartment and laments, "This town is just mean." She seems oblivious to the fact that these guys, some of so-called chums, trade her about as a sexual asset, much as they swap Donna. Eddie is barely listening as he tries to center his own thoughts: "We're all just background in each other's lives."

The play is about 3 hours long, not including intermission, and nearly all of it is filled to the margins with rapid dialogue. At times, it lost me, as manic and drug-addled as it was. Over the course of three hours, though, I came to understand Eddie to be the one sensitive romantic of the group. He is smitten with a "dynamite" girl named Darlene, and he believes, for once, that he may have found true love. But when they finally connect, they speak the usual lines of romantic dialogue with a forced tone that exposes the superficial nature of their feelings. Deep underneath all the dense layers of circular dialogue are the remains of caring people, but years of drug abuse and cynical dealings have all but obliterated them.

I'm a huge Parker Posey fan, and she brought a wonderful physical comedy to her line readings. Hawke is suited to the role of Eddie, channeling that role's hyper sensitivity. He wants to care about others, but more than that he cares what others think of him. When Phil comes to lament his latest argument with Suzy, Eddie is all ears until he discovers that Suzy claimed to hate Eddie as well. He is stunned and instantly pre-occupied with why Suzy would dislike him.

There aren't any bad seats at the cozy Acorn Theatre. From my seat in the fifth row, I was at stage level, and I felt as if I was sitting on the stage. I left the theater nearly high myself from all the faux marijuana fumes from Eddie's pipe, and I could see clearly that one of the LPs in Eddie's collection was Technique by New Order. Ethan Hawke and Parker Posey looked like giants, and I felt as if I could reach out and pull Wallace Shawn's ridiculous hairpiece off. At some point, I'll grow accustomed to seeing such recognizable actors up close, but for now it's still a delight.

By play's end, I was exhausted, my ears having been talked off by all these vampires. I almost reached out and tapped Eddie on the shoulder to ask him for a hit on his bong.

P.S.: I noticed while looking at Parker Posey's IMDb page that she was in Blade: Trinity. Huh?