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The Female Characters
The women in Hurlyburly have been controversial since David Rabe's play first opened in New York

The women in Hurlyburly have been controversial since David Rabe's play first opened in New York. Used, abused, lost and razor-tongued, they are the objects of antipathy, desire and miscomprehension on the part of Eddie and his buddies. "This is not a misogynistic piece," opines Anthony Drazan, "but it does lay open certain hateful attitudes between men and women and between men and men. These guys have gone so far in one direction that they have no idea how to deal with the feminine in their lives.

Thus it is that sparks ignite every time a new woman enters their haven in the hills. ''Each of these women plays a role in the big picture of how these guys come to terms with their lives," say's Drazan. To truly capture these complicated women without resorting to stereotype, Drazan had one priority: "I wanted to cast the most incredibly intelligent actresses available," he say's, "who could really reveal the dynamics between these women and these men.''

Of the three primary female characters in Hurlyburly, Darlene is the one who seems to share the most in common with the guys. She lives fast, commits rarely and has no trouble sleeping with two guys at the same time. ''Darlene vividly represents any of us who are sort of without their center. She's at wits end, which I think makes for a great, funny kind of madcap dynamic in the story," says Drazan. He continues: ''Robin Wright Penn is a revelation in the role. The comic sensibility and the kind of ease and grace that she brings to it is astonishing. She has so much depth that you can't help but see what's really going on behind the surface of Darlene."

He adds: "I think Robin understood that Hurlyburly is a screwball comedy in a certain way, yet it is grounded by some really intelligent thought and feeling. As dark and serious as what is going on here seems, her performance is funny because it comes from a purely human place."

Bonnie, a casual acquaintance of Eddie's, is an exotic dancer who specializes in the use of balloons. But despite how Eddie and his friends may view her, she has an underlying strength and tenacity that ends up having a devastating effect on them. "On the one hand, she seems to be this careless, aggressive, seemingly irresponsible person but on the other, Bonnie is really the moral fiber of the story. And Meg Ryan really embodies that quality of transcending.

For Meg Ryan, the brief but catalytic role of Bonnie was an unusual one - and hence the draw. She saw it as a chance to explore a woman on the edge of morality, but who still had a human core. She says: "What's lasting about this piece is how it enables you to just sit back and watch human behavior without judging. It's fascinating to watch people go through their misconceptions, and see the little discoveries these characters make, by hook or by crook. It's just about humanity, people bouncing off each other, the way we all do."

Ryan, like the rest of the cast, eventually found herself forming an odd affection for the broken souls scrambling for connection and understanding in Hurlyburly, especially Bonnie. "I love Bonnie because as screwed up as she may be, she still has the most unbreakable spirit of determination. Even as she is completely confounded by the universe of men, she still thinks like a teenager, and is so happy to be included with these guys, even though they clearly don't have that affection for her," Ryan comments. "She may not seem strong on first viewing, but<


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