February 26, 2014
Variations Theatre Group is a young company based in Long Island City whose members are swiftly making a name for themselves in New York theatre. They have produced critically acclaimed productions of Neil LaBute’s The Shape of Things and Arthur Miller’s After The Fall among several others. They are also the founders and operators of The Chain Theatre in Long Island City. And now they offer their latest addition to this growing list: David Rabe’s Hurlyburly. It’s bold, it’s brave, and it’s only an ok production. But that’s the main reason to love this company – they take risks. A smart man once said that boring theatre is a much worse experience for everyone concerned than bad theatre. And this production is many things, but it’s never boring.
The playing space is completely transformed. Scenic Designer R. Allen Babcock and Director Rich Ferraioli do an excellent job creating a 1980’s LA home as a thrust stage with audience wrapping most of the way upstage. Scenic Artist Stephanie Ferraioli shows her always deft touch, especially in the magnificent cityscape created for the show. While it’s unclear if it’s a portrait or a picture window looking out over the city, it creates a sense of the lifestyle that these characters lead.
Heading the cast is Kirk Gostkowski as Eddie, a fast-talking, coke-snorting, alcoholic who is the center of this world. Gostkowski is unafraid to show just how depraved Eddie is. The play takes several dark turns and Gostkowski never hesitates to lead us further and further down the rabbit hole. The entire cast gives solid performances with equal bravado and a willingness to show how awful these characters can be. Unfortunately, we rarely see any moments of lightness or vulnerability which makes the overall production uneven and, at times, unrelenting.
Overall, the show is not an ideal fit for the talent on the stage. However, it is a brave production. If this production is any indication, Variations Theatre group has exciting things in store for the future.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Kelly Johnston