April 14, 2011

Mad Hatter

I couldn't pass up the chance to see Bobby Cannavale on stage, so I went to see The Motherf**er with the Hat. He plays Jackie, a recovering alcoholic newly released from prison in Stephen Adly Guirgis's play. He comes home to childhood sweetheart Veronica (Elizabeth Rodriguez) to share some good news but notices a mysterious hat in the apartment. Accusations and expletives fly, forcing Jackie to go to his AA sponsor Ralph D. (Chris Rock) for advice. That's when the s*%^ begins to hit the fan. I cannot say much more without ruining the plot.
This viciously funny play is a study of flawed individuals, two relationships made even worse by drugs and alcohol. Emotions run extremely high. It felt like watching God of Carnage, but with more cuss words, and hilarious dialogue spoken by very passionate characters. Anna Shapiro seems to have a knack for directing dysfunctional personages.
Chris Rock's smug Ralph is married to Victoria (Annabella Sciorra), a sharp-tongued, bitter woman. She's pretty much had it up to here with her husband's touting the benefits of organic food, nutritional beverages, while spouting self-help affirmations. Although more reasons for her unhappiness are revealed, I thought Victoria is the most underdeveloped character.
Mr. Cannavale gives a terrific performance as the troubled ex-con, struggling to stay sober in the face of betrayal. While it is a love story about self-destructive couples, the climactic verbal tussle between sponsor and sponsee can make one question right and wrong. I was genuinely concerned that Jackie would come out none the wiser, but the playwright smartly brought it back as it teetered on the edge of predictability. You'll be laughing most of the time, but the denouement will make you think. I was entertained and devastated.
You will love Todd Rosenthal's quick-change set. Looking at the stage before the show started, I wondered what sort of set design was in store. I was delighted with the result.
Celebrity sighting at the stagedoor: George Stephanopoulos and wife Ali Wentworth.

Yul Vazquez played the scene-stealing Cousin Julio. He was my favorite character. Sexually ambiguous, loving, sarcastic, brutally honest, yet always wise and protective. He is Jackie's refuge and light. Julio made me cry.
Elizabeth Rodriguez, the fiery Veronica.
Annabella Sciorra
Chris Rock does an adequate job in his Broadway debut. Although the night I watched---while the show was still in previews---he seemed to have forgotten a line or two towards the end. He seemed ill-at-ease after that. To be fair, I did come in with (unrealistic) expectations of Chris Rock to be Chris Rock. So all in all, still a decent performance.
And yes, it probably could have had another title.


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