The new play, “The MotherFu**ker with the Hat” is thankfully more fun to watch than it is saying the name. Written unapologetically by Stephen Adly Guirgis and Directed by Anna D. Shapiro who directed one of my favorite plays, “August: Osage County”, the play stars Bobby Cannavale and Chris Rock. Set in New York the story revolves around Jackie (Cannavale) who has been released on parole and moves back in with his longtime love and girlfriend, Veronica (Elizabeth Rodriguez). The story begins on a high with Jackie announcing to Veronica that he just got a job and he’s ready to celebrate with his ‘mamacita’ in the sack. That may be the happiest we see Jackie as the explosive verbal roller coaster begins it’s journey revealing Jackie’s sponsor, Ralph D played by Chris Rock. We’re then introduced to Ralph D’s wife, Victoria (Annabella Sciorra) and Jackie’s cousin Julio played by Yul Vazquez. The intertwined characters reveal more of themselves and the secrets they hold for each other as the story progresses all in the name of love and fidelity.
Stephen Adly Guirgis has written a modern day streetwise play with characters who are all on the edge of sobriety or users tapping into the anxieties and psyche that can plague people who are coping with staying sober and those that use. The displaced neurosis exhibited by Jackie when he immediately jumps to conclusions after seeing an unidentified hat in Veronica’s apartment leads to his ultimate demise. The audience becomes immediately aware they are here for the ride after the first argument is in effect between Jackie and Veronica. Both characters can stand up to each other with verbal rage and manipulate the argument with razor sharp dialogue. The audience will feel like they’re watching an updated version of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf” gone ghetto, as the exhilarating ping pong match is one of many fueled fits of rage superimposed with biting humor – Yikes!
The ‘Hat’ may have to go to casting directors, Jordan Thaler & Heidi Griffiths for assembling a five member cast of characters who each shine as they delve into Guirgis’ script with amplified strength yet internal pain. Every actor has a moment(s) where the audience feels their pain. That being said, Bobby Cannavale might just get the right amount of attention when it comes to TONY nominations as the play is revolved around his character. Elizabeth Rodriguez may not be a household name but, you will remember her after this performance as the fast talking Veronica who carries one of the largest chips on her shoulders I’ve ever seen. Chris Rock as Ralph D may play my favorite character as Jackie’s sponsor who has now embraced holistic living to stay sober and seems to carry everything in a shady stride. Yul Vazquez as Cousin Julio is the perfect antidote to balance the high strung cast with his over the top portrayal of a Gay, Latin, Chelsea boy.
The only problem with “The MotherF**cker With The Hat” is that the dialogue is delivered at lightening speed because that’s how these characters would realistically speak, however Guirgis has fueled each character’s speech with biting humor that it’s sometimes challenging as an audience to keep up with the play. It simply means the audience needs to keep up or better yet, see the play twice to catch what they missed the first time – that would be my recommendation! Make no mistake these character may appear rough on the edges but, the story is filled with these character’s agonizing pain that is not so different from the audience’s pain, just amplified which ultimately makes for exciting theater.
“The MotherFu**er With The Hat” opens April 11th at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. For tickets and more information visit: www.themfwiththehat.com