Hurlyburly. n. a disorderly outburst or tumult.
And it has some fun synonyms: to-do, disturbance, commotion, kerfuffle, hoo-ha.
But I’ll be honest—my feelings about David Rabe’s Hurlyburly are, in many ways, tumultuous. Sure, this play has a lot of the traits that might draw in potential directors and actors. It’s got substance, deeply flawed characters, and some roles with heft. It’s emotional and challenging. It’s set in the 80s (how fun!).
This particular disorderly outburst of a play, however, is so much more than that. It’s an often unflattering look at a decade of excess. It’s rife with drugs, vulgarity, and violence. And as I continued to submerge myself in the addiction, the misogyny, and the deeply rooted desperation of Hurlyburly’s troubled characters, I became increasingly uneasy.
This play was not some window to a bygone era. It was an echo of our own disturbing news cycles.
It would be nice to read or see Hurlyburly and beam at how far we’ve come. But that’s not honest. We need to talk about this play more than ever. We need to talk about the way men treat women. We need to talk about the way men treat each other. We need to talk about addiction, mental illness, depression, violence, and what we’re now calling toxic masculinity.
So here’s my disclaimer: What you are about to see is full of ugliness. It might make you uncomfortable. Maybe even outraged. I’m not asking you not to feel those feelings. But I do think we need to be brave enough not to run away from that ugliness. If we can see past the faults of these characters, maybe we can start a dialogue. We need dialogue. We need to talk about it.
And we need to listen.
After living with this play for the better part of the last year, I still feel shame about how far we haven’t come. I’m ready to talk about it.
And I’m ready to listen.
-Jordan Chaddock, Director of Hurlyburly