THE MOTHERF**KER WITH THE HAT
by Stephen Adly Guirgis.
Lyttelton Theatre Upper Ground South Bank SE1 9PX In rep to 20 August2015.
2.15pm 25, 27, 30 June, 4, 8, 11, 14 July, 1, 4, 12, 20 Aug.
7.30pm 24-27, 29 June-4, 6-11,13, 14, 31 July, 1, 3, 4, 10-13, 18-20 Aug. 2.15pm,
Audio-described 1 Aug 2.15pm (+ touch tour 12.45pm), 3 Aug
Captioned 11, 19 Aug.
Runs 1 hr 45min No interval.
TICKETS 020 7452 3000.
Review: Carole Woddis 18 June.
There’s something almost sweet and naive about Stephen Adly Guirgis’ The Motherf**ker with the Hat. Leaving aside the f-word expletives that splatter his characters’ dialogue, close your eyes and you could be hearing the bash and rumble of Armistead Maupin’s much loved collection of downtown San Francisco queers, transgender madames and others in Tales of the City. Except this is downtown NYC and Guirgis’ protagonists hail from the outer edges of small-time criminality.
There’s Jackie, on parole and a recovering alcoholic, his `sponsor’, Ralph, similarly recovering, and their respective amours: Veronica, Jackie’s girlfriend constantly described by Ralph as an `addict’ – though apart from the odd line of coke, Flor De Liz Perez’s Veronica resembles more a sparky, younger version of West Side Story’s Maria than a down-at-heel junkie.
Victoria, charmed by the amoral Ralph into rejecting a high earning city life, is at the sharper end of desperation, seeing at mid-30, her life slipping away from her.
Set in three different NYC neighbourhoods – Robert Jones’s set designs are a wonder of quick change environments dominated by typical NYC fire-escapes – all four are grappling to hang on to whatever self-esteem they can muster in language as richly comic as it is colourfully, inventively obscene.
How these characters can swear in the course of trying to locate their emotions and truth in relation to the others. One outstanding scene – a knock-down confrontation triggered by Ralph’s `betrayal’ of Jackie with Veronica – elicits a fantastic exploration by Guirgis on the nature of friendship, sex being sober, showing human frailty.
Ralph and Jackie have a fisticuffs, wrestling on the floor confrontation over Ralph’s betrayal of Veronica by sleeping with her when Jackie was in prison. Leads to honest-to-goodness truth-telling about friendship, sex and honesty.
In Indhu Rubasingham’s Anglo-American cast (courtesy of UK Equity) it’s impossible to differentiate limeys from Americanos. But one stands out as unique. Yul Vázquez’s Julio – Jackie’s cousin, “playground faggot” (in his own words) and sometime protector.
Vázquez, with something of a Brando drawl, creates a character of bizarre, wondrous mystery: a gym fanatic, health freak with a Van Damme potential for causing serious bodily harm.
Rubasingham’s production is loud and visceral, as it should be, its ending sad rather than tragic. A soap opera by any other name. But classy with it.
Jackie: Ricardo Chavira.
Veronica: Flor De Liz Perez.
Ralph: Alec Newman.
Victoria: Nathalie Armin.
Cousin Julio: Yul Vázquez.
Director: Indhu Rubasingham.
Designer: Robert Jones.
Lighting: Oliver Fenwick.
Sound: Carolyn Downing.
Company Voice work: Jeannette Nelson.
Dialect coach: Cecilie O’Reilly.
Fight director: Kev McCurdy.
The Motherf**ker in the Hat opened at the Lyttelton Theatre 17June 2015.
Developed originally at the Ojal Playwrights Conference and LAByrinth Theater Company.
Produced on Broadway by Scott Rudin in a Public Theater/LAByrinth Theater Company production.