The Motherf**ker with the Hat, by the Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis, is a play I’ve had my eye on for a while. The 2011 Broadway debut (which earned many Tony nominations) was on my to-do list for that season, but I never made it to the city. Theatre Exile, along with the non-profit arts organization The Brothers’ Network, bring this powerful story to Philadelphia for their 25th anniversary season. Audiences who come to this theatre will see stories that resonate with our community and topics that explore the parts of life we don’t always bring to light.
This performance is a fast-paced 100 minute ride of real life. Addiction. Personal battles. Trust. Love. Friendship. It’s real and raw adult life exposed on stage that allows audiences to better understand (or relate to) the personal demons that so many people around them struggle with each day.
After two years in jail, Jackie (an outstanding performance from J Hernandez) comes home to childhood sweetheart Veronica (Daniela Malavé). He’s working to stay sober and control his impulses, while Veronica doesn’t bother to do the same. Jackie’s sponsor, Ralph (Scott Greer), seems to want to help, but we soon learn about his own toxic habits and lies. Ralph’s wife, Victoria (Amanda Schoonover), is about to reach her breaking point as well and helps Ralph uncover some dark truths about the people who supposedly have his back. Jackie’s cousin Julio (Zach Valdez) a big part of this story and helps remind Jackie who he used to be. And the title motherf**cker with the hat? Well, you’ll have to find out for yourself.
All of the actors on stage are incredible as they unravel each character’s backstory (and throw in a ton of f-bombs!). There’s a lot of humor in this show, but there are also some very intense scenes. Each cast member has the ability to go from making you laugh to making your heart break in a matter of minutes. They all have flaws, but we feel for them and get a sense of not just who these people are, but who they can represent around each of us personally.
Though the story is set in New York, director Ozzie Jones realized how relevant the content is to Philadelphia- the Kensington neighborhood specifically. Above the set, you’ll see photographs by Shawn Reid that highlight the addiction crisis throughout our city. Please make some time to see The Motherf**ker with the Hat and think about your loved ones who might need some support, no matter what they are dealing with internally.
The Motherf**ker with the Hat runs through February 27th. Tickets are available here. For more about the show, read my interview with cast members Amanda Schoonover and J Hernandez (a real life couple) on the blog here.