BWW Reviews: MOTHERF**KER WITH THE HAT is Motherf**ing Funny
Is there a twelve step program to creating a perfect comedy? I don't know, but if there is, writer Stephen Adly Guirgis and Austin's Capital T Theatre have found it. The Motherf**ker with the Hat is a hysterical, riotous comedy that, despite what the vulgar title may suggest, is just as intelligent and poignant as it is filthy.
Gurgis takes no time to introduce us to his main themes about hypocrisy, betrayal, and the difficulties of, as I'm sure any one of his characters would say, generally keeping your sh*t together. In the opening moments, Veronica cleans house while speaking on the phone with her mother, offering dear old mum some tips on dating and sobriety. This wouldn't be of note if Veronica wasn't doing lines of coke and hiding evidence of her affair during the conversation. Of course, Veronica forgets to hide a few pieces of evidence. When her sober-living, ex-con boyfriend Jackie arrives, he quickly notices a hat on the table and the aroma of "Aqua Velva and d*ck" coming from the bed. Needless to say, the hilarity and expletives fly from there.
And yes, there are quite a few expletives and colorful images. In one scene, Veronica says of Jackie's deceased mother that if she were there, "I'd strap on a f**king dildo and f**k her," and in another, Jackie says, "Being in love with Veronica-it's like feeding your balls to Godzilla every morning. Every morning you go, 'Yo, Zilla, these sh*ts are very delicate so please chew softly,' and every morning the motherf**ker just goes crunch!" At the tamest of lines, even David Mamet would blush and say, "Tone that f**king sh*t down," but nevertheless there's far more to Gurgis's writing than foul language. Between the four letter words, Gurgis has plenty more to say. He's created five well developed characters, most of whom struggle to stay afloat as they sabotage themselves and the ones they love. It seems Gurgis believes that everyone wants to live a good, healthy, normal, and peaceful life, but it's much easier to tell others how to live their lives than to do so yourself. We're all motherf**kers who are one bad decision away from falling off of whatever wagon we're on.
It's hard to think of any theater company in Austin that would be more suited to this raunchy, comical, and thoughtful piece than Capital T Theatre. Raunchy, comical, and thoughtful are well within Capital T's wheelhouse (case in point, their recent staging of The Lieutenant of Inishmore). Director Carrie Klypchak takes an appropriate laissez faire approach to the material and lets the text and incomparable cast do the work. J. Ben Wolfe is wonderful as recovering addict, Jackie. He's tough but sweet and oddly charming. Wolfe believably oscillates through Jackie's highs and lows, most of which come at (pardon the obvious turn of phrase ahead) the drop of a hat. Though he starts the show in the giddy, happy haze of being released from jail, getting a job, and staying sober, that quickly and easily comes crashing down due to Veronica's infidelity and his clear anger management issues. Of course, anger management is just one of Jackie's many flaws, and he makes more than his share of mistakes. Though he often falls short of taking responsibility for his decisions, it's clear that he never intends to do anything bad, and that's more than enough to get the audience on his side. We want him to succeed and we want him to find stability in his life, though we have a suspicion from the beginning that happiness and steadiness are qualities Jackie will never achieve.
As Jackie's junkie girlfriend, Veronica, Indigo Rael is fantastic and easily brings the foul mouthed Puerto Rican from the Bronks to life. With her take no prisoners, "I don't give a f**k" attitude, she's more than able to fire off quips like, "I love you, and I'll kick a three-legged kitten down a flight of f**kin' stairs rather than say some sh*t like 'I love you.'" Aaron Alexander is equally as strong as Jackie's AA sponsor, Ralph. From moment to moment, we never know if Ralph is sincere or phony, but we do begin to see that while he may have conquered his demons with drugs and alcohol though yoga and fitness smoothies, he still has a truckload of issues to contend with. As Ralph's wife, Victoria, Antoinette Robinson is stellar. Though she may have the least amount of stage time, Robinson creates a delectable character who is tough, angry, disillusioned by her marriage, vocal regarding her frustrations, and more than willing to act out. Over the course of the evening, the similarities between each guy's mate become clearer. The only things that separate Ralph's wife Victoria and Jackie's girlfriend Veronica are a few letters in their names and a few lines of cocaine. Rommel Sulit (who shares his role with Jude Hickey) is phenomenal as Jackie's effeminate, former sex addicted cousin, Julio. While he too has his issues and hypocrisies (he's clearly gay but married to an unseen woman named Marisol), Julio seems to be the only content person in this motley crew. Sulit excels at turning the character into a voice of reason rather than a superficial, over the top caricature. He also gets the most laughs. Nothing's funnier than a queeny homosexual comparing himself to Jean Claude Van Damme.