Broadway Review Roundup: THE MOTHERF**KER WITH THE HAT, All the Reviews!
THE MOTHERF**KER WITH THE HAT, by Stephen Adly Guirgis and starring Bobby Cannavale, Chris Rock, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Annabella Sciorra and Yul Vázquez, opens tonight at the Gerald Schoenfeld Thetare (236 West 45th Street, New York City). Directed by Anna D. Shapiro, the limited engagement will play 15 weeks.
THE MOTHERF**KER WITH THE HAT is produced on Broadway by Scott Rudin, Stuart Thompson, Public Theater Productions, LAByrinth Theater Company, Fabula Media Partners LLC, Jean Doumanian, Ruth Hendel, Carl Moellenberg, Jon B. Platt, Tulchin Bartner/Jamie deRoy.
THE MOTHERF**KER WITH THE HAT is a new high-octane, verbal cage match about love, fidelity, and misplaced haberdashery from playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis. Jackie and Veronica have been in love since the 8th grade. But now, Jackie is on parole and living clean and sober under the guidance of his sponsor, Ralph D, while still living and loving with his volatile soul mate Veronica who is fiercely loving, but far from sober. Still, their love is pure. And true. Nothing can come between them - except a hat. Did the show earn critics' tip of the hat? Find out now!
Ben Brantley, The New York Times: This is by far the most accomplished and affecting work from the gifted Mr. Guirgis, a prolific and erratic chronicler of marginal lives ("Jesus Hopped the ‘A' Train," "Our Lady of 121st Street")...The characters portrayed by a marvelous, intensely focused five-member ensemble - including the stand-up comic Chris Rock, in a solid Broadway debut, and a blazingly good Bobby Cannavale - are always striving for a mot juste to explain their less than clear-cut feelings. That Jackie's emotions, like those of everyone in "Hat," are a muddle doesn't mean that they don't burn clear, or bright enough to scorch.
Elysa Gardner, USA Today: Rock proves both a bold and canny choice for Ralph, a less sympathetic figure. More likable and less palpably ego-driven than many comedians of his generation, Rock doesn't exude the kind of crass narcissism that the sponsor eventually reveals...By not putting characters or their dilemmas in neat boxes, Guirgis gives us, in Hat, a slice of hard life that's as provocative as it is absorbing.
Marilyn Staso, Variety: Although Broadway proves too much of a stretch for Rock, if this multihyphenate talent is really serious about stage acting, there are some savvy thesps in this show who could show him the ropes. Bobby Cannavale and Elizabeth Rodriguez come out swinging -- and swearing a blistering blue streak -- as Jackie and Veronica, longtime lovers who are hooked on all kinds of evil substances and bad behaviors, but mostly on one another.
Terry Teachout, Wall Street Journal: Mr. Rock has never acted in a stage play, and his inexperience shows-he's a bit stiff at times-but you can see that he's well on his way to getting where he wants to go. His colleagues are stunningly good, especially Mr. Cannavale, who has the biggest part and makes the most of it...Don't let the stupid title put you off. If you do, you'll miss one of the best new plays to come to Broadway in ages.
David Rooney, Reuters/Hollywood Reporter: Playing a big-hearted lug, Cannavale's performance is what holds the play together as Jackie struggles to stay off booze and keep hold of his moral compass. As its title suggests, Motherf**ker comes on with a lot of tough-talking bravado and wild profanity. Underneath that, however, it's a wistful story of a couple who have loved each other almost all their lives, but can't keep it together. Cannavale's Jackie bounces from goofy exhibitions of romantic ardor to volatile explosions to wounded-puppy vulnerability to genuine pain, always putting his own unique spin on Guirgis' virtuoso dialogue.
Elisabeth Vincentelli, NY Post: In his Broadway debut, Chris Rock plays Ralph D., the AA sponsor of Bobby Cannavale's Jackie. They share some heavy scenes -- red-blooded, profanity-laden bouts -- but Rock is a lightweight: The more experienced, more assured Cannavale knocks him out without even trying.
Joe Dziemianowicz, NY Daily News: Cannavale's work is outstanding. With veins popping in his neck and a body language of tics and anxieties, he stunningly conveys a man fighting demons within and without; one day at a time never looked so daunting.It would seem that the X-rated- ranting Ralph D. would make a good fit for Rock, but it works against him. Rock gives the character a good shot, but when he delivers Ralph D.'s lines in his trademark grunts and high-pitched voice, it's too close to what's become his own comic specialty. He not only draws unintentional laughs, but some audience members spoke back to him. Goes to show - sometimes, it's fame that's a "Motherf-."
Matt Windman, amNY: Guirgis' foul-mouthed and sexually explicit language is consistently funny, but much of the play drags and its premise quickly wears thin. The production, however, has been directed with finesse by Anna D. Shapiro, who won a Tony for "August: Osage County." She highlights the play's fighting quality and makes it feel authentically raw. Cannavale delivers a wildly aggressive performance as Jackie, highlighting the character's confusion and desperate nature. Rock, on the other hand, portrays the self-satisfied Ralph with a hilarious kind of ease and cockiness.
Chris Jones, The Chicago Tribune: Rock just about gets through this assignment. Just. But you can see the fear in his eyes. Which would be fine if he were playing a weak character. But in "Hat," Rock is, in fact, playing the principal aggressor in a play about love and chemical addiction among a small group of characters in modern-day New York...It's a shame, really, because the first scene of this show, a blistering moment set in a so-called residential hotel in Times Square that takes place between Cannavale, playing a recovering addict named Jackie, and Rodriguez, as Veronica, his zesty-but-jumpy girlfriend, ignites the show as if someone had just poured gasoline on the theater.
David Seward, Backstage: Comedian-actor Chris Rock is a naturally funny guy and probably the main reason this show is on the Main Stem rather than Off-Broadway, but he's totally wrong for Ralph D...Despite this central flaw-and it's a big one-there is still plenty to praise about "Motherf**ker." Fortunately, Ralph is not the play's central focus. That role-Jackie, a recovering alcoholic and Ralph's A.A. sponsee-is admirably filled by Bobby Cannavale. Set designer Todd Rosenthal not only cleverly conveys three very different NYC apartments in one setting, but he also gives us vital, specific clues about the occupants of each one. Luckily, four of the five actors do as well.