Jackie is living with Veronica. Jackie is a recovering alcoholic, while Veronica still uses controlled substances. As The Motherf**ker with the Hat opens we see her casually snorting coke while cleaning the apartment, and talking on the phone to her mother, trying to convince her to leave an abusive boyfriend. Jackie returns from a successful job interview, with flowers for Veronica, ready to take on the world. While Veronica is showering, Jackie notices another man’s hat on a chair. He proceeds to inspect the hat, and the bed, actually sniffing for evidence of Veronica’s infidelity. He confronts her, the situation escalates, he storms out, and goes on a rampage. After venting some frustration, he winds up in the apartment of best friend and AA sponsor, Ralph. Ralph is passively controlling, but his heart seems to be in the right place. He (like so many sponsors before him, no doubt) advises Jackie to “work the program,” even though his heartbreaking circumstances have unleashed something volcanic in him. In his odyssey of redemption and epiphany, has some heart to hearts with his cousin Julio, and resists seduction by Ralph’s wife, Victoria.
Stephen Adly Guirgis’ TMWTH gradually goes from raucous comedy (virtually awash in a blue streak of vitriolic obscenities and curses) to somber morality tale, ending with a crushing, painfully sad moment. Veronica realizes she has lost something precious, because she refuses to step up. Like Mamet and Rabe, Guirgis has a gift for painting with colorful, colloquial, earthy language. But beyond that, there’s an irony to hearing these characters express their visceral rage and pain in such deliberately cynical, visceral terms, while mixing in the occasional lofty, complicated idea. Like hearing Leona Helmsley quote the Dalai Lama. TMWTH repeatedly asks the audience, “What’s wrong with this picture?” The characters are disenchanted, disillusioned and disgusted, mocking Jackie’s anguished, tumultuous struggle to hold on to something meaningful, while never conceding there’s something horribly broken in their own lives. Cousin Julio, the least hypocritical of the bunch, is the object of scorn. In what must be one of the most grotesque (and hilarious) metaphors to be found in contemporary theatre, Ralph compares yoga to sticking a Lotus flower in his tuchas. Thus does Guirgis explicate the cosmic enigmas.
All teasing aside, TMWTH is masterful and genuinely funny, wise and appalling, uproarious and merciless and excruciating. It’s one of those plays that rewards reflection, the closer you look, the more you find. Kitchen Dog’s production is intuitive and strong, with diligent, intense, vibrant cast : Jackie (Christopher Carlos) Ralph D (Michael Federico) Veronica (Christie Vela) Victoria (Lisa Marie Gonzalez) Cousin Julio (Anthony L. Ramirez)
Kitchen Dog Theater presents The Motherf**ker with the Hat, playing Valentine’s Day through The Ides of March, 2014. 3120 McKinney Avenue, Dallas, Texas 75204. 214-953-1055. www.kitchendogtheater.org