The Motherfucker with the Hat

by John Stoltenberg

This is a really offbeat (and, I would argue, pretty downbeat) play. And in its new production at Studio Theatre it’s performed darn brilliantly.

It’s sort of a comedy, but sort of not. It’s got sexual infidelity and off-the-charts jealousy,  brutal betrayal of love and friendship, knockabout stage combat, addiction/recovery/relapse… Very dark stuff, but with very blue punchlines.

Playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis has created a world in which each of his five effed-up characters becomes by turns the butt of a scathing, profanity-laced “Here’s what’s wrong with you” speech from one of the others—and we the audience are expected to accept this pileup of train wrecks as entertaining behavior. Some of the cascading passages of splenetic invective  almost rose to a level of poetry, to my ears anyway—perhaps inured as they had become to the play’s repetition of the F word. Which is to say, this ain’t no TV sitcom.

I left without a clue as to what it all means. I took no comfort in witnessing five lives carom off one another only to tumble further. Nothing uplifting going on that I could discern. But I was enthralled by the virtuoso acting—which in its own way was ennobling.

Director Serge Seiden has assembled an exquisitely charismatic cast: Rosa Colón as the spitfire Veronica; Drew Cortese as her bragadocious BF Jackie, Quentin Maré as unctuously two-faced Ralph D, Gabriela Fernandez-Coffey as his exasperated wife Victoria, and Liche Ariza as would-be best bro Cousin Julio. With thrilling authority and presence, they deliver a five-star turn.

If this troupe doesn’t win a prize for best performance by an ensemble…I’ll eat my mf-ing hat.

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