Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre's The Motherf**ker With the Hat: Smart, Funny and F**k'n' Poetic.

Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre's The Motherf**ker With the Hat: Smart, Funny and F**k'n' Poetic.
(right to left) Jackie (John Ortiz) takes his sponsor, Ralph D. (Jimmy Smits) to visit his Cousin Julio in Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s production of The Motherf**ker with the Hat by Stephen Adly Guirgis, directed by ensemble member Anna D. Shapiro. The Motherf**ker with the Hat runs December 28, 2012 – March 3, 2013 in Steppenwolf’s Downstairs Theatre (1650 N Halsted St). Photo credit: Michael Brosilow.

CHICAGO, Wednesday, January 16, 2013.  The new year is ringing in with a lot to shout about starting with Steppenwolf Theatres’ fast-paced, foul-mouthed and hilarious “The Motherf**ker With the Hat” that opened last week and runs through March 3 in Steppenwolf Downstairs Theatre. “Motherf**ker”, directed by Steppenwolf ensemble member Anna D. Shapiro (who also directed the show on Broadway) and written and created by Stephen Adly Guirgis, delivers an in-your-face look at modern love and other addictions.

The play is populated with characters considerably different than the Steppenwolf audience. They are not your typical girl or boy next door (depending where you live).  Instead they come from the underbelly of society–energized and bounded by a profusion of profanity. They are crude, poorly educated and loaded with self doubts, fears, insecurities, anger and a need to be wanted.  Steppenwolf Artistic Director Martha Lavey explains playwright Guirgis motivation this way,  “I think what Stephen is up to in the play is that he is creating people who may seem different from the ones sitting next to us in the theater but who become, over the course of the play, deeply human, deeply familiar and deeply sympathetic.”

The first scene sets the pace for the entire 140-minute, no intermission, show with its smart, profane and hilarious dialogue. As the play opens Veronica (Sandra Delgado) is doing a line of coke while cleaning her S.R.O. apartment and talking to her mom on the phone. We learn a lot right off the bat. We learn that Veronica is an addict with a foul mouth but a good heart. We learn that the probable reason the 20-something Veronica is an addict is because her mother is one.  Amped on coke, Veronica tells it like it is saying, “Ma? O.K., look, for the last time, my opinion, you’re still a good-lookin’ woman with a huge, lovin’ heart and you’re not hard to please—clearly—but you’re dating a fuckin’ big-time loser with a head like a actual fuckin’ fish! . . . O.K., like, please, alls I’m gonna say, Ma, when you see him tonight: Take a moment. Take a breath. Take a real good look and just ax yourself in all honesty, ‘Do I wanna fuck him or fry him up with a little adobo and paprika?”

After that passionate discourse comes to a close, Jackie, (John Ortiz), Veronica’s recovering alcoholic on-again, off-again boyfriend since their eighth grade days enters Veronica’s apartment in high spirits. Jackie has some very good news–after being unemployed for a long time he has landed a job as a janitorial assistant and is dreaming even bigger dreams.  He showers Veronica with gifts including a lotto ticket and a tiny stuffed bear. It looks like good times are about to roll for the duo as Veronica jumps into the shower and Jackie awaits her in bed.  But before the happy reunion, Jackie sees a man’s hat on the side table and goes crazy trying to figure out who is that “Motherf**ker With the Hat” that musta been fuckin’ my girl.  He wonders, is the motherf**ker the downstairs neighbor or someone else?

The search for the motherf**ker is filled with twists, turns and some surprises as it addresses the very human condition that affect all humans whether in the urban jungle, the middle class or the top of the heap.

Other members of the talented cast include Jackie’s A.A. sponsor, Ralph played spot-on by Jimmy Smits. Ralph’s dissatisfied, needy wife, Victoria (Sandra Marquez), and Jackie’s smart, cynical cousin, Julio in a phenomenal and hilarious portrayal by Gary Perez who sees things as they are and doesn’t hold back.

The production team includes: Todd Rosenthal (scenic design) whose ingenious revolving set captures the living spaces of the characters and their personalities, Linda Roethke (costume design), Donald Holder (lighting design), Rob Milburn and Michael Bodeen (sound design) and Terence Blanchard (original music). Additional credits include: Erica Daniels (casting), Matt Hawkins (fight choreographer), Cecilie O’Reilly (voice coach) Kim Osgood (stage manager) and Christine D. Freeburg (assistant stage manager).

Tickets to The Motherf**ker with the Hat ($20 – $86) are currently on sale through Audience Services (1650 N Halsted St), 312 335 1650 and on the Steppenwolf Theatre website. 20 for $20: twenty $20 tickets are available through Audience Services beginning at 11 a.m. on the day of each performance (1 p.m. for Sunday performances). Rush Tickets: half-price rush tickets are available one hour before each show. Student Discounts: a limited number of $15 student tickets are available online using promo code “HAT15”. Limit 2 tickets per student; must present a valid student ID for each ticket. For additional student discounts, visit Group Tickets: all groups of 10 or more receive a discounted rate for any performance throughout the season. For additional information, visit Steppenwofl Groups.

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