An outrageous title does not a great play make. Despite terrific performances by all, Studio Theatre’s “The Motherf**ker with the Hat” falls short…although at 2 hours and no intermission it doesn’t feel that way. An explosive study of relationships—the yings and yangs, trust, deception and the many facets of love, “The Motherf**ker with the Hat” starts off well. However, the constant fighting, bickering and speechifying ultimately weighs the play and audience down and keeps it from becoming as terrific as it should be.
A five-person play with a minimalistic set, “The Motherf**ker with the Hat” takes place in New York City. Jackie (Drew Cortese), on parole from prison and committed to sobriety, has just landed a job. Armed with flowers and other goodies, he rushes to the apartment he shares with long-time girlfriend, Veronica (Rosal Colón) to celebrate the good news. All is well until Jackie notices a man’s hat in a corner of the room that doesn’t belong to him. He demands to know who’s the The Motherf**ker with the Hat” and when Veronica doesn’t come clean, he rushes off to seek lodging and comfort from his sponsor, Ralph D (Quentin Maré). Ralph and his wife, Victoria (Gabriela Fernandez-Coffey), have their own volatile relationship and keeping Jackie in their midst doesn’t help their situation. Added to the mix is Jackie’s Cousin Julio (Liche Ariza), a fitness freak and the play’s voice of reason.
Written by Stephen Adly Guirgis and directed by Serge Selden, “The Motherf**ker with the Hat” is a play of huge personalities, save one…Ralph D. His low-keyness is very deceiving and it’s his actions that actually serve as the catalyst for much of the play’s conflict. It’s a tricky performance to pull off and Maré nails it. Drew Cortese and Rosal Colón are great together and their scenes are cringe-inducingly realistic. Gabriela Fernandez-Coffey has a smaller role than the other actors, but her work with Cortese and Maré are especially good and she portrays the role of put-upon, betrayed wife with genuine disgust and weariness. Liche Ariza’s Julio provides much-needed comic relief in a volatile, tense play, but as his stage time increases, we realize that there is more to his performance than first meets the eye.
“The Motherf**ker with the Hat” is not bad…it’s just not as great as one thinks it will be. Ultimately it eventually betrays the audience and its terrific actors.
Through March 10
Metheny Theatre in the Studio Theatre, 1501 14th Street NW, Washington, DC