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I Smell a Hat

'The Motherfucker with the Hat' at Allways: Theatre Review



The first New Orleans run of The Motherfucker with the Hat opened Thursday at the Allways Lounge and Theatre.  

 

Written by New York-based playwright and director Stephen Adly Guirgis, the play is locally produced by NU theatre, and marks the directorial debut of Joshua Parham. Featuring a rockstar cast, the play is presented in two acts, packed both with comedy and embarrassingly relatable tragic conversations and emotions.

 

The Motherfucker with the Hat opens with Veronica (played by Kate Kuen) "cleaning" her mess of a barren apartment, while noticeably leaving the beer, Stolichnaya, and cocaine on the table. On the phone with her mother in what the audience soon learns to be an ironic moment, the addict and cheater gives relationship advice. Throughout the play -- and in the moment of romance doctoring especially -  Kuen does an excellent job at capturing the physical language of a drug-addled Puerto Rican immigrant living tough in New York City.  Think booty shorts and that snappy-finger-head-wag thing.

 

Soon enters her lifelong beau, Jackie (played by Michael Aaron Santos), full of promise of new beginnings and through the roof with self-pride since he finally got a job, especially since this one has "potential for career advancement." Recently free of a two-year stint in jail for dealing drugs, Jackie's struggle with sobriety quickly becomes a theme of the play. As things start looking up for the future, the couple also heats up as Jackie matches and allows for Veronica's sexual antics. Before things can get started, however, Jackie discovers an unknown hat alone with odors of "aqua velvet and dick" thus quickly turning romance into a fiery yelling match.

 

Needing some help, Jackie goes to the apartment of his AA sponsor, Ralph D (played by Marin Bradford).  Immediately, we see a man who has changed -- the same table housing the booze in the first scene now has a comically large stack of vitamins, green teas and fish oils.  Ralph goes through his routine promoting prayer and a "higher power calm." Bradford does a good job maintaining the force of the scene, as the text allows for the character to make fun of his new yoga/surfing/"nutritional drink." Unfortunately, we soon see that not everything exists happily on this side of sobriety, as Ralph's wife Victoria (Michelle Martin) shouts comically absurd hate from the kitchen.

 

As the play unfolds, we see each character choose self-specific virtues. But a chosen vice is also allowed to creep in, whether drugs, helpless romantic antics, cheating, or acceptance to the point of self-loathing. While the play is chock full of laughs, one liners and obscure references, the writing often changes quickly to fights and painful arguments. But audience members even catch themselves laughing at others' horribly dramatic arguments as both completely relatable and completely without our own personal investment. The production also registers to the other extreme, often as a result of extreme physical violence, such as choking, fighting, or whacking with a baseball bat.

 

Cousin Julio (Armando Leduc) plays the fifth wheel in the story of two nastily-connected relationships.  Remarkably performed by Leduc, Julio often speaks of his constantly absent Marisol, while at the same time being the comedic center of the play. Julio isn't only there for laughs, as he gives a backbone to Jackie's character, without which we would not have nearly a whole-enough image of his cousin. Physically and vocally, Leduc is a pleasure to watch.

 

The cast's innate talent, the direction of the play, and the characters' extreme choices keep the production vibrant -- it's a loud play, both in volume and in content.  Overall the play features fast-paced comedic wit, with a relatable dark side for anyone who has gone through a bad relationship, drug addiction, self-loathing, cheating, self-obession… why not just say life?

 

The Motherfucker with the Hat runs Thurs. - Sat, through August 17, at Allways Theatre (2240 St. Claude Ave). Tickets are $15, and available here. For those who struggle to cope with the title, the play's fast-paced verbal insults around extended scenes of violence and sexuality may prove a bit too scandalous. The play is recommended for ages 18+.

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Contributors

Renard Boissiere, Evan Z.E. Hammond, Naimonu James, Wilson Koewing, J.A. Lloyd, Nina Luckman, Dead Huey Long, Alexis Manrodt, Joseph Santiago, Andrew Smith, Cynthia Via, Austin Yde

Photographers


Art Director

Michael Weber, B.A.

Editor


Listings Editor

Linzi Falk

Editor Emeritus

Alexis Manrodt


B. E. Mintz


Stephen Babcock

Published Daily