Sunday, February 3, 2013

"The Motherf#@ker with the Hat" ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ BANG! BANG!

Stephen Adly Guirgis's "The Motherf#@ker with the Hat" is not only brilliant, it is motherf#@king hysterical. From Victoria and Jackie's first embrace, through 95 minutes of verbal and emotional mayhem, all the way down to Victoria's last heartrending sigh as she sits alone on her bed listening to Lionel Richie, we are catapulted into the world of five desperate people whose lives, amazingly, end up mattering a great deal to us.

How good is the cast of five? The audience cheered at the end of every single scene, that's how good.

Victoria is played by Isabelle Ortega, channeling Rosie Perez but only on the surface. With all her bravado, she's worried about her life. Her boyfriend, Jackie, is played by Gabriel Marin in a performance that seams together the best parts of all his past roles as a big, loveable doofus who cannot ever get out of his own way. It's a dream role for this marvelous actor, but then you meet Ralph, Jackie's AA sponsor, played by Carl Lumbly. Ralph might actually BE the owner of that motherf#@king hat, we're not sayin' so one way or the other, but, regardless, he surely is one righteously bad drug counselor.

Then there is Ralph's totally fed-up wife (Margo Hall ), no shrinking violet herself, and let's not even THINK about overlooking cousin Julio (Rudy Guerrero) who delivers the play's most memorable line as he links over to Fat Tessio in the Godfather ("...leave the gun. Take the empanada.")

There are so many lessons to be learned from this show. One, if you want to be a writer and you're going over the top, don't test the waters with your playwright's toe, motherf#@king jump in.

Two, if you want to be a great director, follow Bill English's advice: cast these five actors.

Three, if you want a successful show, start with a memorable #@ing title. 

From the audience's point of view, there's only one lesson here; do not miss this fabulous show.


The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division would have no problem whatsoever awarding "The Motherf#@ker with the Hat" its highest rating of Five Stars. But you can't have Five Stars along with BANGLES OF PRAISE. That would be like Santa Claus acquiring the Easter Bunny. It doesn't make sense.

So we are awarding Four Stars with Two BANGLES. This is very high praise and does not even include the miracle of finding a parking spot right on Powell Street only a few hundred feet from the theater.

The first ☼ is for the principals Ortega, Marin and Lumbly, with a second ☼ for Hall and Guerrero who do what supporting characters are not supposed to do: steal the show every chance they get. A third  is for English's set design and precision lighting by Jordan Puckett, and a fourth ☼ for Guirgis's superb plot and dialogue.

As for BANGLES OF PRAISE, the first is for Ralph's commentary about friendship: "...anyone you meet before age 25? That's a friend. Anyone after that? That's an associate." How sadly true this is.

The second BANGLE is for Jackie's description about being in love with Victoria. We won't spoil it here, but it involves Jackie's genitals and Godzilla.


"The Motherf#@ker with the Hat"
San Francisco Playhouse
450 Post St. (Second floor of Kensington Park Hotel)
San Francisco
Through March 16

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