BWW Reviews: Hats Off, Way Off to THE MOTHERF*CKER WITH THE HAT
The Motherfucker With The Hat /by Stephen Adly Guirgis/directed by Martin Papazian/The Lost Studio/thru August 10, 2014
Hang on for the 100-minute ride of your life in the impeccably cast, tightly directed, stunningly acted Los Angeles premiere of Stephen Adly Guirgis' very smartly written The Motherfucker With The Hat. TMFWTH intensely, vividly, explicitly tells the story of five New Yorkers with little-to-no success in their daily struggles to fight addictions, battle lovers and simply survive. Recovering alcoholic Jackie, still on parole, has just found a job as a building superintendent. His girlfriend Veronica already does have a job, but also has her own set of various addictions. In his enthusiastic attempt to celebrate his news with Veronica, he notices a hat, not his own, left on their nightstand. And then the explosive fun begins! Barbed accusations fly amidst pretty convincing denials. Tempers and emotions run red-hot, then simmer to a slow boil. The next day Jackie goes to see his AA sponsor Ralph, who calms Jackie down encouraging him not to slip back to the bottle, and in an afterthought, to not kill the owner of the hat.
As the charismatic parolee Jackie, Christopher Amitrano gives a tour de force performance brimming with bravado, street-smart, danger, and sympatico. WOW! What a Mother Amitrano is!!! Amitrano rightfully, as Jackie should, takes center stage focus whenever he's onstage, which is most of the time. TMFWTH's Jackie's world, unrealistic and delusional as it is, with everyone revolving around him. But Jackie's not really a bad guy; he does have his sense of morals. He lives by 'the code.'
His cohorts in conversations; no, his combatants in arguments, fights, all-out screaming bouts befall on his well-matched, very talented partners-in-crime. Melissa Pino nails her portrayal of Veronica, Jackie's toxic love of his life. You so want to believe her as she vehemently denies to Jackie she's cheating with TMFWTH. Pino effortlessly projects the pain and pragmatism Veronica goes through in her own daily struggles of survival. Although some, no, many of her choices' questionable, Pino makes sure you understand why Veronica made them.
Shaun Duke totally entrances as the advise-spouting AA sponsor Ralph. He could sell you an ocean front property in a desert. No small wonder that Victoria gave up a charmed future to become Ralph's wife. Keili Lefkovitz makes every opportunity to showcase her talents as she barks at Ralph, flirts with Jackie and ultimately reveals secrets no one really wants to know. Then there's the only other person Jackie can turn to in crisis, his cousin Julio. Alex Désert's Julio's a potent combination of comic relief with a real heart, a genuine soul and the dead seriousness of truth.
Martin Papazian directs this roller coaster ride in a quick no-time-to-take-a-breath pace with the appropriate dramatic pauses right where they should be.
And, kudos to Amitrano for successfully wearing the co-producer's hat with Samantha Watkins.
With such an incredibly strong combination of script, acting and directing; the changing of sets, realistic though they were, seem superfluous. The three sets could have all fit on The Lost Studio stage with lighting changes to spotlight the three different locales. But, maybe the purpose of the set changes was to give the audience time to take their collective breaths???
This is what theatre's about! MotherF-ing right!!!