Entertainment » Theatre

The Motherfucker With The Hat

by Joe Siegel
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Wednesday Oct 10, 2018
Jackie Aguirre and Rudy Ru in "The Motherfucker With The Hat," at the Epic Theatre Company through October 20.
Jackie Aguirre and Rudy Ru in "The Motherfucker With The Hat," at the Epic Theatre Company through October 20.   

Epic Theater Company has produced Stephen Adly Guirgis' "The Motherfucker With The Hat," a gritty comedy/drama dealing with the aftermath of addiction.

Jackie (Rudy Ru) is an ex-con and recovering alcoholic looking for a second chance in life. He shares an apartment with his Puerto Rican girlfriend Veronica (Jackie Aguirre) who snorts cocaine off the kitchen table when the play begins.

Soon after, Jackie flies into a jealous rage when he finds a hat on the table. He accuses Veronica of cheating and they have a vicious fight.

Ralph (Jay Are Adams), Jackie's cynical AA sponsor, allows him to stay in his home for the time being.

Meanwhile, Ralph's unhappy wife Victoria (Kerry Giorgi) discloses some information to Jackie about Ralph and Veronica — a secret which threatens Jackie's newfound sobriety.

Jackie's cousin Julio (Nicholas Menna) shows up and berates Jackie for his self-indulgent behavior. Menna has some effective moments as Julio pleads with Jackie to turn his life around.

"The Motherfucker With The Hat" could have been a powerful examination of a man's efforts to rebuild his life after a stint in prison. Instead, the story ends up becoming an episode of "The Jerry Springer Show" replete with nonsensical and downright incomprehensible actions by the characters. The plot developments, which become increasingly bizarre, take the audience out of the story.

We want to root for Jackie and see him find redemption, but Guirgis keeps throwing outlandish revelations at us, until our interest is eroded.

Director Jonathan Pitts-Wiley generates powerful work from his actors and skillfully escalates the tension in the story.

Ru is a charismatic performer who brings a lot of heart and soul to Jackie, a troubled man who is fighting to keep his drinking at bay.

Adams also gives an energetic performance and has some funny moments when Ralph describes his healthy lifestyle. But later on the character's entire personality undergoes a wild transformation which strains plausibility. In other words, it's a cheat.

Ru and Adams have an electrifying chemistry but deserve stronger material than they are given here.

Giorgi also turns in some solid acting as a woman who is stuck in a bad relationship and doesn't know how to escape from it.

"The Motherfucker With The Hat" squanders so many opportunities to get at the heart of addiction. Guirgis doesn't seem interested in going to the core of his characters. How did Jackie become so troubled? Why does Victoria remain in her marriage? We never find out.

Jackie's drinking and Veronica's cocaine habit are thrown into the story as gratuitous plot elements. They are just window dressing to the soap opera theatrics exploding all over the place.

Perhaps the most absurd element of the show is Guirgis' intent for the audience to cheer for Jackie and Veronica's relationship. These two characters have such unpleasant interactions it's a mystery why they would want to be together at all.

Despite the enthusiasm of the performers and some amusing dialogue, "The Motherfucker With The Hat" ends up being an unsatisfying experience.

"The Motherfucker With The Hat" runs through October 20 at the James and Gloria Maron Cultural Arts Center, 180 Buttonhole Drive, Providence. Presented by Epic Theatre Company and Academy Players of RI. For tickets, go to epictheatreri.org.

Joe Siegel has written for a number of other GLBT publications, including In newsweekly and Options.


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