A tip o’ the hat to MOTHERF***ER

The ShakerFJ correct

– barebones productions has a tradition of doing new and edgy plays.  And they hold to that tradition with their current offering The Motherf**ker With the Hat by Stephen Adly Guirgus.

As evident from the title, the language is spicy, and this show is assuredly not for those easily offended.

Motherf**ker is a love story.  A depressing love story.  And it’s populated with five totally unlikable characters.

A recovering alcoholic named Jackie (Patrick Jordan) finds another man’s hat in the studio apartment of his cocaine-addicted girlfriend Veronica (Ruth Gamble), and the fireworks begin.

Before the play is over, Jackie will turn for help to his Cousin Julio (Leandro Cano), his AA sponsor Ralph D (Edwin Lee Gibson) and Ralph D’s wife Victoria (Daina Michelle Griffith).

Jordan, barebones founder and artistic director, gives a solid performance as Jackie.  Gamble’s Veronica lacks levels, so she comes across as a bitch.  Why does Jackie love her?  Hard to tell.

Cano has two memorable moments.  One is when he reveals his feelings about Jackie; the other recounts a powerful childhood memory.  In both cases, Cano overflows with powerful emotions, and he commands the stage.

On opening night, Gibson seemed to get tongue-tied throughout the performance.  The final scene he shares with Jordan seems to go on forever—but that’s not the fault of the actors or of director Rich Keitel, who has paced the play very well.

Griffith does the best she can with the badly underwritten role of Victoria.

The play switches quickly from location to location (Veronica’s apartment, Ralph D’s home and Cousin Julio’s place), and set designer Douglas McDermott does an outstanding job making those locations appear and re-appear.  Kudos to that hardworking stage crew who make the changes at a rapid-fire pace.

Lighting designer Andrew David Ostrowski also makes magic, giving each of the play’s locales a unique look.

Director Rich Keitel and his cast do their best, but they aren’t getting much help from this script.  Perhaps if playwright Guirgis had given one character worth rooting for, worth caring about Motherf**ker might be salvageable.  But as it stands, it’s not.

The Motherf**er With the Hat continues through December 7 at the New Hazlett Theater on Pittsburgh’s Northside.

– F.J. Hartland

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