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The Motherf**ker with the Hat

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Millinery and haberdashery are not often topics of the dramatic arts. But when headwear is bundled-up in the subjects of love, loyalty, and addiction, theatrical stakes can be substantially raised, if not particularly elevated. Such is the case with Stephen Adley Guirgis'’ audaciously titled 2011 play, The Motherf..ker with the Hat.

 

Guirgis’ comedy-drama isn’t so much about a hat as it is about a hat that serves as a stand-in for the projections and insecurities of the play’s protagonist, Jackie – a recovering addict and felon who’s just finished serving 26 months in prison (Jackie is energetically and believably embodied by Tony Sancho). In the midst of an amorous encounter with his mouthy love interest, Veronica (portrayed with gritty realness by Elisa Bocanegra), Jackie notices a fedora on a table in Veronica’s low-down and disheveled New York apartment.

 

Certain that the hat is evidence of an interloper with whom Veronica is having an affair, Jackie is so distraught that he confides in his sponsor from Alcoholics Anonymous, Ralph D. (a marvelously natural Larry Bates), regarding his suspicions and desperation. Ralph D., meanwhile, is insistent that Jackie cannot stay in a relationship with Veronica while she is still abusing drugs and alcohol. Ralph D. therefore suggests that Jackie stay with him and his querulous wife, Victoria (Cristina Frias in a complex portrayal).

Meanwhile, Jackie confronts the neighbor (unseen) whom he suspects is the culprit who forgot his hat. Jackie, in retrospect, explains that he knocked on the man’s door, and, when answered, he proceeded to throw the hat onto the living room floor and shoot it with a pistol. Frantic to hide the weapon, Jackie calls on his cousin Julio (a scene-stealing Christian Barillos) to store the gun for him.

With complications and dilemmas of their own creation, Guirgis’ characters are a troubled bunch living in accordance with their own warped codes and self-serving philosophies. Ralph D., for example, believes that the only thing that has any meaning for him is the maintenance of his sobriety. Jackie, on the other hand, lives in a fashion that blurs the line between moral and immoral as well as imagination and actuality.

Under Michael John Garces muscular direction, The Motherf..ker with the Hat is a swift two-hour, intermission-less, show that is as profanity-laced as anything that David Mamet has ever written. Moreover, its displays of sexual activity and nudity make this play an adults-only presentation and not for people who are adverse to trash talk and scatology.

Still, as raw and off-putting as the language and circumstances might be in the opinion of some, The Motherf..ker with the Hat, has many things to recommend it. First the dialogue, as wretched as it can be at times, is, nonetheless, clever. Ralph D., for instance, at one point speaking of his yogic routine says, “I may be an a..hole, but I’m f..king limber.” Also, there’s a fist-fight (credibly choreographed by Edgar Landa) that looks as spontaneous and true as could be. The show has philosophical implications, too. Do we live in a shared world where there are consequences for our actions, or do we exist in a solipsistic universe of our own creation, denying responsibility for our deeds and misdeeds?

With state-of-the-art scenic design technology by Nephelie Andonyandis, original music and sound work by Bruno Louchouarn, and craftily appropriate costuming by Leah Piehl, The Motherf..ker with the Hat offers us a slice-of-life portrait from the far-side of the city. It’s not for everyone, but many will appreciate its unvarnished view of values, while all ought to admire the stagecraft on display.

The Motherf..ker with the Hat continues at South Coast Repertory through January 27. SCR is located at 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. Evening performances are Tuesdays through Sundays at 7:45 p.m. Matinees are Saturday and Sundays at 2 p.m. For reservations, dial (714) 708-5555. For online ticketing, visit, www.scr.org.


 

Spotlight

Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”

ABOUT ELLEN RICHARD

Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.