BWW Review: THE MOTHERF**KER WITH THE HAT Is Bold and Brutal; Funny Too
Carl Overly, Jr. has made his directorial debut with the St. Louis premier of The Motherf**ker with the Hat by Stephen Adly Guirgis at R-S Theatrics, and it is an effort to be applauded. This play, as you might suspect from its title, is graphic and realistic, a dramedy about people who survive in the gritty real world, and all the circular ways in which they hurt one another. It has been described as a "high-octane verbal cage match about love, fidelity, and misplaced haberdashery," and it is all of that and more.
When Jackie (Adam Flores) is released from prison and returns home to Veronica (Sofia Lidia), his girlfriend since eighth grade, he swears to turn his life around. He will work. He will seek advancement opportunities. He will attend AA meetings. He will treat Veronica (an addict herself) like the feisty queen she was born to be. He will do all the "right" things to ensure their future happiness. He will work hard on his impulse control and he will--record screech--find the motherf**king owner of the motherf**king men's hat he spies on Veronica's kitchen table--yeah, the one that is not his.
Enter Ralph D (Aaron Dodd), Jackie's waggish AA sponsor and his sassy wife Victoria (Taleesha Caturah), both seemingly on the right paths now, despite spirited verbal exchanges, both following society's rules of "good living." Ralph and Jackie have become friends although as you might suspect, the bounds of that friendship will be tested. And enter Jackie's cousin Julio (Jesse Muñoz), the khaki-wearingest, purest of all the characters, whose life is a bit laughable in the context of all the surrounding drama. As they all attempt to help Jackie navigate through the betrayal, the secrets inside these increasingly complex relationships come to light.
There are many memorable lines in this piece. An audience favorite was, "Being in love with Veronica--it's like feeding your balls to Godzilla every morning. And every morning, you go, 'Yo 'Zilla! These shits are very delicate, so please chew softly.' And every morning the motherf**cker just goes, 'Crunch!'"
This very strong ensemble cast brings to life five fully developed characters who squat in your mind long after you leave the theater; four of whom you'll still be worrying about in the days to come. Flores especially delivers a superb performance and elicits not only laughs but also much empathy for a truly desperate character whose personal history and inner chaos have affected all of his future opportunities.
Taylor Gruenloh's scenic design makes very smart use of a small space, featuring three different apartments with just a few quick adjustments between scenes. Mark Kelley's sound design is commendable, with an interesting variety of transitions and sound effects that lend a flawless level of naturalism to the piece. Mark Kelley also choreographed an exciting fight scene that, if sped up ever so slightly, might seem real enough to make the audience recoil in their chairs.
The Motherf**ker with the Hat contains mature content. Running time is around an hour and a half with no intermission. It plays through February 10 at the .ZACK Theatre. For tickets and more information visit, r-stheatrics.com.