by Stephen Adly Guirgis
Directed by David R. Gammons
Review by Gillian Daniels
(Boston) Speakeasy Stage’s The Motherf**ker with the Hat is a dark comedy that never quite tips over into bleak. Its main characters are addicts, recovering and otherwise, but they either have a sense of humor about it or have learned to accept their shortcomings. Fresh out of jail, Jackie (Jaime Carrillo) tries to break the tight circuit of repeating behaviors that has him locked into a pattern of loving, drinking, and messing up.
With scenes involving nudity and language, it’s a very contemporary take on redemption. There’s no one path that characters need to free themselves from their situations. This is not a cautionary “don’t do drugs” tale.
Veronica (Evelyn Howe), Jackie’s girlfriend, is too afraid to break her dependence but manages to hold down a job just fine and, in a way, act more responsible than Jackie. Meanwhile, Ralph D (Maurice Emmanuel Parent), Jackie’s sponsor, has swapped his dependence on substances for a rigorous health regime. Though his success is obvious, his happiness with his wife and fellow recovering addict, Victoria (Melinda Lopez), is questionable. Only Jackie’s cousin Julio (Alejandro Simoes), the good-natured butt of
many jokes involving his flamboyance, is the most put together of the crew. Simoes makes him the most sympathetic character of the show, a warm, funny presence on stage. Motherf**ker is best when it’s completely candid about the flaws of its characters. It steers wrong when it turns to melodrama. Once in a while, a character will drag his or her realizations out into a soliloquy. The show’s much more interesting when playwright, Stephen Adly Guirgis, lets his characters talk to each other rather than the audience.
Though the action is drawn out near the end, the play remains wonderfully written and engaging. It’s a deft work of fiction. In a lesser play, the characters would have been treated as types: the screw-up, the priss, the addict. Here, they are redeemably, achingly human with viewers given the privilege to look into their lives for just a short time before the curtain.