It comes as no surprise that the nature of this show is purely reflected in its title. Every other word the actors say gives credit to the name of this play too.
Jackie, played by Desperate Housewives‘s Ricardo Chavira, has recently come out of prison. He has managed to find a job and is happily in love with childhood sweetheart Veronica (Flor De Liz Perez). Veronica has just finished a very funny phone call with her mother about her sex life and alcoholism – while doing a line of cocaine herself. Jackie excitedly comes in, showering his girlfriend with presents and sharing with her the good news that he has found a job. Life seems to be looking up for Jackie in his recovery process until he notices “an unidentified f**kin’ hat” (as he later refers to it) lying on the table. Suddenly everything in Jackie’s life takes a turn. He turns to his sponsor Ralph (Alec Newman), his wife Victoria (Nathalie Armin) and Cousin Julio (Yul Vázquez) only to discover that there are more to people than meets the eye.
It takes a really strong cast to portray all the struggles and emotions these characters face so vividly. Each character is at a different stage of an addiction recovery and the anger, frustration, pain and sadness is played brilliantly by this cast.
The play manages to portray an equilibrium of darkness and comedy with a range of themes that are often recognisable in Guirgis’s plays. Addiction, betrayal, morals and a struggle to stay on the right path all play key roles in Jackie’s life, and it is the hat that changes Jackie’s path. The audience only really learn about Jackie through stories told about him by the other characters, which really build up the narrative.
The set is worth a mention as it is assembled like a jigsaw without distracting from the storyline. The movements of the set effortlessly transport the audience from Times Square to Washington Heights. The music that divides the different locations is characteristic for bustling New York; however, if I have one criticism for this show, it is that it is unnecessarily loud to the point where it becomes uncomfortable.
Overall, The Motherf**ker With The Hat is an exceptional play. It takes some really fantastic writing to bring tasteful comedy to such a sinister subject. The humour is never at the expense of the characters and the audience gains real insight into the life of people going through a 12-stage plan to get their lives back on track. It may be dark, but it’s witty and challenging too.
The Motherf**ker with the Hat plays at the National Theatre until 20 August. For more information and tickets, see the National Theatre website. Photo by Mark Douet.