Telluride Inside... And Out In New York: Wednesday Matinee

Mother... set The day that ended with a bang with Duo Jalal's gig at Drom, began with meeting yet another Telluride friend, Diana Conovitz, and a Wednesday matinee. Bottom line: Run, don't walk to see the play, "The Motherf**ker with the Hat" at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. (Unless strong language offends.)

Playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis's newest play, his seventh, with the bleeping wonderful name is a no-holds-barred knock out: script, direction, performances, sets, lighting, the whole enchilada, terrific. Exhilarating. The story about life, love, despair, longing, a vague scent of hope and, well, a hat, is raw, in-your-face, intensely poignant and caustically funny.

 "Motherf**ker" marks the Broadway debut of comedian Chris Rock as the health-juice-drinking, yoga-posing nihilist Ralph D. in what has to be one of the finest, five-person ensembles ever assembled by a director, in this case, the talented Anna D. Shapiro. Shapiro won the 2008 Tony Award for Best Direction for "August: Osage County" and might well dust off her shelves for a second statuette for this comedy-drama.

Ditto for scenic designer Todd Rosenthal, who also won for "August." His pitch-perfect, dynamic set is the sixth member of the cast of actors, who feel less like characters than flesh-and-blood people you might meet on the street –  if you happen to be slumming it. The locus of Guirgis's story is the terminally frustrated working-class poor, their frustrations, miscommunications and misunderstandings (the hat), all of which fuel the comedy. Only they are not laughing. We are.

Out loud and constantly. It begins with the starting gun, a cocaine-fueled conversation Veronica (Elizabeth Rodriguez) is having with her mom about a boyfriend Veronica doesn't much like:

“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?'"
 
And then her own boyfriend, Jackie (Bobby Carnevale) enters. Jackie is high as the sky on the Fourth of July, but this time not on booze or drugs, because our Jackie is in recovery. (And Ralph D. is his sponsor). Nope, what's lighting his fire this time is a new job and his love for Veronica, which began in their teens. Jackie is still hot to trot. Until he spots the hat.

The plot sickens. Ralph D.'s wife, Victoria, Annabella Sciorra, who traded a promising career on Wall Street for the philandering Ralph, sees Jackie as her Ambien. Meanwhile, when the shit hits the fan, Jackie's eccentric cousin Julio (Yul Vazquez) has Jackie's back. But only if he eats his eggs.

Guirgis did not write a Hollywood ending for "Motherf**ker with The Hat." Because recovery is elusive.

Just read the headlines.

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