The Motherfucker with the Hat
|The Motherfucker with the Hat|
|Written by||Stephen Adly Guirgis|
|Date premiered||April 11, 2011|
|Place premiered||Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, New York City|
The Motherfucker with the Hat (sometimes censored as The Motherf**ker with the Hat and The Mother with the Hat) is a 2011 play by Stephen Adly Guirgis. The show is described as "a high-octane verbal cage match about love, fidelity and misplaced haberdashery."
Jackie is a former drug dealer who has just been released from prison to join the American workforce. His girlfriend, Veronica, however, still uses cocaine and other drugs. In fact, the play begins with a funny, high-octane phone conversation between Veronica and her mother, who's also an addict. Then Jackie arrives, full of good intentions and pent-up testosterone.
But just as he and Veronica are jumping into bed, he sees a hat in her apartment. Realizing it is not his, he accuses her of cheating, going to his drug and parole counselor, Ralph D., for help. Meanwhile, Ralph's wife, Victoria, has "had it up to here with his helium".
Jackie obtains a gun. Ralph insists that he not keep it, so he gives it to his cousin Julio for safekeeping. Jackie reveals that he had slept with his previous AA counselor, which may be part of the reason Veronica mistrusts him. Later, Veronica is entertaining a lover, which is revealed to be Ralph. They had slept together a handful of times while Jackie was in prison.
Meanwhile, Jackie gets the gun back and returns the hat to the guy he thinks is it owner, then throws it on the floor and shoots it. He talks about this with Victoria, who is tired of Ralph's cheating and begs Jackie to sleep with her. She reveals to him that Veronica and Ralph have slept together—he (the trusted Ralph) was really "the motherfucker with the hat."
Jackie shows up a Veronica's apartment drunk, accusing her of cheating, hurt because they had been in love since high school. When he gets loud, she hits him with a bat.
Julio takes Jackie in. He reveals that he is grateful because, years ago, Jackie did an unexpected kindness for him. Jackie wants to confront Ralph and Julio is willing to cover his back, claiming to be a "Van Damme".
Jackie goes to Ralph's. The two men try to fight it out, but end up futilely wresting on the floor. Ralph admits he slept with Veronica, but he talks tough with Jackie—that's the way the world is, etc., and why don't you toughen up? -- and would like to be friends with Jackie. Jackie refuses to accept his friendship and returns to the apartment to pick up his things. He has broken parole by shooting the gun and is heading off to prison for a short stint. He tries to tell Veronica he loves her, but she runs out of the room, unwilling to listen. He leaves. A few moments later, Veronica comes out of hiding and calls his name.
The show premiered at Broadway's Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on April 11, 2011, following previews from March 15. The cast starred Chris Rock in his Broadway debut as Ralph D., with Bobby Cannavale (Jackie), Annabella Sciorra (Victoria), Elizabeth Rodriguez (Veronica) and Yul Vázquez (Cousin Julio). It was directed by Anna D. Shapiro, with music by Terence Blanchard, set design by Todd Rosenthal and lighting by Donald Holder. The production closed on July 17, 2011.
The first regional production of the show was at Theaterworks in Hartford, Connecticut, premiering on October 14, 2011. The cast starred Royce Johnson as Ralph D., with Ben Cole (Jackie), Vanessa Wasche (Victoria), Clea Alsip (Veronica) and Varin Ayala (Cousin Julio). It was directed by Tazewell Thompson. On November 30, 2011, play author Stephen Adly Guirguis aired his complaints with the casting of this production, saying that director Thompson had cast white actors in two parts intended to be portrayed as Puerto Rican. Thompson also included a scene of full-frontal male nudity which was not in the original Broadway production, but was in the script. In January 2013 The Mother**ker with the Hat was put up at San Francisco Playhouse in San Francisco where it was very well received.
On its opening night performance, The Motherfucker with the Hat received mixed reviews from New York critics (the median grade on StageGrade was a "B−", based on 25 major reviews).
The Wall Street Journal's review wrote, "What makes "Hat" more than just a foul-mouthed, fast-moving farce is that Mr. Guirgis's real subject turns out to be moral relativism. The impeccably sober Ralph D., who has swapped booze for fluorescent-colored nutritional beverages, preaches the gospel of AA with a convert's fervor, yet it doesn't stop him from doing whatever he wants to whomever he wants. Jackie, by contrast, has yet to master his self-destructive impulses, but at least he knows that the point of getting sober is not to become more efficient at taking advantage of other people: "Your – whaddyacallit – your world view? It ain't mine. And the day it is, that's the day I shoot myself in the head. I didn't get clean to live like that."... Don't let the stupid title put you off. If you do, you'll miss one of the best new plays to come to Broadway in ages."
Ben Brantley of The New York Times said, "The play that dare not speak its name turns out to have a lot to say. Stephen Adly Guirgis’s vibrant and surprisingly serious new comedy opened on Monday night at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theater under a title that cannot be printed in most daily newspapers or mentioned on network television. This is vexing for those of us who would like to extol the virtues of "The ___________ with the Hat", at least in public. (The title also seems to have created problems for the people trying to publicize the play.) This is by far the most accomplished and affecting work from the gifted Mr. Guirgis, a prolific and erratic chronicler of marginal lives."
The New York Post gave mixed reactions: "In his Broadway debut, Chris Rock plays Ralph D., the AA sponsor of Bobby Cannavale's Jackie. They share some heavy scenes – red-blooded, profanity-laden bouts – but Rock is a lightweight: The more experienced, more assured Cannavale knocks him out without even trying. This is a big problem because Stephen Adly Guirgis' new dark comedy, "The Motherf**ker with the Hat", pivots on the evolving relationship between the two. Rock's tentative performance creates an imbalance that throws the show out of whack."
In reviewing the production, Marilyn Stasio (Variety) wrote, "... Anna D. Shapiro [is] an entirely worthy helmer, [but] doesn't seem to speak the same theatrical language as the [cast]." Scott Brown in New York gave a negative review, saying, "But the play really doesn’t have the heft to earn the death of hope, nor does it have the stones or the seriousness to declare hope officially dead. Motherf**ker mainly concerns itself with a lot of big, mordant laughs ... yet overall, the play feels jumpy and scant."
"Motherfucker" is starting to get regional theater productions. A version (Nov. 21-Dec. 8, 2013) at barebones productions in Pittsburgh received a strong response, both in the press and the box office. Witness the review in the "Pittsburgh Post-Gazette", which said, in part, that in contrast with other plays staged at this time of year, the play is "sort of cute, definitely colorful, more tart than sweet and not wholesome at all, but, for those who don't find all that a drawback, astonishingly funny."
Box office sales and advertising
Michael Reidel in The New York Post reported that in early April 2011, the show only grossed $239,000, though its gross potential was $867,000: "For whatever reason, nobody wants to see this show". The production is expected to cost $3 million. He noted that the title of the show has been "debilitating" for advertising. Wrote Riedel, "[They] simply can't get the name of the play out there, [because] Chris can talk about it, but he can't say the title, so nobody knows what it is."
According to Variety, the box-office takings of the show during its first week of preview performances were $239,221. In The Motherfucker with the Hat's opening week, it grossed $270,309, playing to 82.9% capacity.
Awards and nominations
|2011 Drama League Awards|
|Distinguished Production of a Play||Nominated|
|Distinguished Performance: Chris Rock||Nominated|
|Distinguished Performance: Bobby Cannavale||Nominated|
|2011 Outer Critics Circle Awards|
|Outstanding New Broadway Play||Nominated|
|Outstanding Director of a Play: Anna D. Shapiro||Nominated|
|Outstanding Set Design: Todd Rosenthal||Nominated|
|Outstanding Actor in a Play: Bobby Cannavale||Nominated|
|Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play: Yul Vázquez||Nominated|
|Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play: Elizabeth Rodriguez||Won|
|2011 Drama Desk Awards|
|Outstanding Actor in a Play: Bobby Cannavale||Won|
|Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play: Yul Vázquez||Nominated|
|2011 Tony Awards|
|Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play: Bobby Cannavale||Nominated|
|Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play: Yul Vázquez||Nominated|
|Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play: Elizabeth Rodriguez||Nominated|
|Best Direction of a Play: Anna D. Shapiro||Nominated|
|Best Scenic Design of a Play: Todd Rosenthal||Nominated|
|2011 Broadway.com Audience Choice Awards|
|Favorite Actor a Play: Bobby Cannavale||Nominated|
|2011 Theatre World Awards|
|Lunt-Fontanne Award for Ensemble Excellence||Won|
- Ben Brantley (11 April 2011), A Love Not at a Loss for Words, New York Times, retrieved 2011-04-12
- News Staff (December 9, 2010). "The Motherf**ker with the Hat, Starring Chris Rock, Moves Forward First Preview". Broadway.com. Retrieved 12 April 2011.
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- Christopher Rawson (17 November 2013). "Stage review: barebones' 'The Mother' dark, comic and passionate". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2013-12-26.
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