"The Motherf#cker with the Hat" (Steppenwolf Theatre): PG-13 Telenovela

"The Motherf#cker with the Hat" (Steppenwolf Theatre):  PG-13 Telenovela

Steppenwolf Theatre Company presents THE MOTHERF#CKER WITH THE HAT.  Jackie is a recovering addict, freshly paroled and newly employed. When he goes home to celebrate with his long-time girlfriend, Veronica, he spies a gentleman’s hat on the table.  Suspecting Veronica is cheating on him, Jackie spirals out of control.  He gets drunk.  He gets high.  He gets a gun.  He goes after that motherf#cker.  But whose hat is it anyway?  And who is the biggest motherf#cker screwing up his life?  THE MOTHERF#CKER WITH THE HAT is a PG-13 telenovela.

Playwright  Stephen Adly Guirgis penned an ode to Telemundo soap operas.  The passion, the betrayal, the attempted murder is all present...sometimes in triplicate.  Although I’m entertained by all the drama, I never experience a strong connection to any of the characters.  They are like reality show stars.  I’ll watch their messy lives but I don’t care what happens to them.  Guirgis created them flawed. And Director Anna Shapiro makes them unsympathetic.  The exception is Gary Perez (Cousin Julio).  Perez plays wistful with bittersweet amusement.

During the Broadway run, Chris Rock starred in the Ralph role.  Rock is a legendary comedian known for his animated facial expressions, salty language and growing up in the ‘hood.  It’s easy to see how he would be the comedic focal point of THE MOTHERF#CKER WITH THE HAT.  His simple utterance of the word ‘motherf#cker‘ would regale hearty laughter.  Guirgis’ dialogue is probably 50% of a Chris Rock stand-up routine.  The fusion of the two, Guirgis’ dialogue and Rock’s delivery, would have been a mo-fo riot.

This Steppenwolf version has Jimmy Smits (Ralph) in the Rock role.  A veteran actor, Smits plays it with his smooth-talking perfection.  But without Rock’s natural, over-the-top, wacky, vulgarity, the cursing feels forced.  Not just with Smits, everybody is swearing like sailors.  It feels contrived and gimmicky like a movie putting in more f-bombs to get an R rating to boost sales.  Shapiro also directed the Tony-nominated Broadway show.  And her Steppenwolf ensemble is fine but without el muy loco motherf#cker exploiting the comedic elements, it remains soap opera-esque.

Hats off to Scenic Designer Todd Rosenthal!  His flipping and rotating set was f#cking fantastic!

Running Time:  One hour and forty minutes with no intermission

At Steppenwolf Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted

Written by Stephen Adly Guirgis

Directed by Anna Shapiro

Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 7:30pm

Saturdays and Sundays at 3pm

Wednesdays in February at 2pm

Thru March 3rd

Buy Tickets at www.steppenwolf.org

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  • Wow. I wasn't interesting in seeing this, and most of your review covers why. Then, you talked about the set. Now, I'm intrigued.

  • I loved it! I reminded me of the "Chinglish" set. All this flipping and rotating happens with characters in play, it's a fantastical orchestration.

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