The Motherfucker with the Hat

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The Motherfucker with the Hat
Written byStephen Adly Guirgis[1]
  • Ralph D.
  • Jackie
  • Veronica
  • Cousin Julio
  • Victoria
Date premieredApril 11, 2011[1]
Place premieredGerald Schoenfeld Theatre, New York City[1]
Original languageEnglish

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."[2]


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. The play begins with an intense and comic phone conversation between Veronica and her mother, who's also an addict. Jackie arrives shortly thereafter.

Just as Jackie 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".[3]

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 a man in their building who he thinks is its owner. Jackie 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— Ralph was really "the motherfucker with the hat."

Jackie shows up at Veronica's apartment drunk, accusing her of cheating, hurt because they have 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 showed unexpected kindness to 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 wrestling on the floor. Ralph admits he slept with Veronica and explains that she will never love him until she chooses to sober up. In spite of everything, he 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 Motherfucker with the Hat premiered at Broadway's Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on April 11, 2011, following previews from March 15.[2] The cast starred Chris Rock in his Broadway debut[4] as Ralph D., with Bobby Cannavale (Jackie), Annabella Sciorra (Victoria), Elizabeth Rodriguez (Veronica) and Yul Vázquez (Cousin Julio).[1][5] It was directed by Anna D. Shapiro, with music by Terence Blanchard, set design by Todd Rosenthal, sound design by Acme Sound Partners, costumes by Mimi O’Donnell, and lighting by Donald Holder.[6] The production closed on July 17, 2011.[7]

The first regional production of the play was at Theaterworks in Hartford, Connecticut, premiering on October 14, 2011. The cast included Royce Johnson as Ralph D., Ben Cole as Jackie, Vanessa Wasche as Victoria, Clea Alsip as Veronica and Varin Ayala as Cousin Julio. It was directed by Tazewell Thompson.[8] On November 30, 2011, 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.[9] 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 Motherfucker with the Hat was produced at San Francisco Playhouse in San Francisco where it was very well received.[10]

There was also a production of the play which opened at the Allways Theatre in New Orleans, Louisiana. It was directed by Joshua Parham and starred Michael Santos, Kate Kuen, Armando Leduc, Martin Bradford and Michelle Martin. It was very well received.

On 21 January 2015, it was announced the play would receive its UK premiere at the Lyttelton Theatre, part of The National Theatre[11] beginning 10 June.[12]

In November 2015, There was a production of the play which opened at the Southside Theatre at Purchase College in Purchase, New York. Produced by the Anima Vox Theatre Collective. It was directed by Keith Weiss and starred Gregory Lakhan as Ralph D., Charlie Gonzalez as Jackie, Luz Guzman as Veronica, Anita Bennett as Victoria, and Josh Nasser as Cousin Julio.


Critical reception[edit]

On its opening night performance, The Motherfucker with the Hat received mixed reviews from New York critics.

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."[13]

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."[1]

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."[14]

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]."[5] 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."[15]

The Motherfucker with the Hat has also been produced in regional theaters. A version (Nov. 21-Dec. 8, 2013) at barebones productions in Pittsburgh received a strong response, both in the press and the box office. The "Pittsburgh Post-Gazette" 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."[16]

Box office sales and advertising[edit]

Michael Riedel 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."[17]

According to Variety, the box-office takings of the show during its first week of preview performances were $239,221.[18] In The Motherfucker with the Hat's opening week, it grossed $270,309, playing to 82.9% capacity.[19]

To advertise the show, Rock has made appearances on CBS News[20] and Late Show with David Letterman.[21] In addition, he was interviewed by The New York Times[4] and ABC News, among others.[22]

The show closed the week ended July 17, 2011 after 112 performances and finished in the top 10 for its final week with a gross of $870,024 being at 101.3% capacity. Its total gross was $10,451,323.[23]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Award Outcome
2011 Drama League Awards[24]
Distinguished Production of a Play Nominated
Distinguished Performance: Chris Rock Nominated
Distinguished Performance: Bobby Cannavale Nominated
2011 Outer Critics Circle Awards[25]
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[26]
Outstanding Play Nominated
Outstanding Actor in a Play: Bobby Cannavale Won
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play: Yul Vázquez Nominated
2011 Tony Awards[27]
Best Play Nominated
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 Audience Choice Awards[28]
Favorite Play Nominated
Favorite Actor a Play: Bobby Cannavale Nominated
2011 Theatre World Awards[29]
Lunt-Fontanne Award for Ensemble Excellence Won


  1. ^ a b c d e Ben Brantley (11 April 2011), "A Love Not at a Loss for Words", New York Times, retrieved 2011-04-12
  2. ^ a b News Staff (December 9, 2010). "The Motherf**ker with the Hat, Starring Chris Rock, Moves Forward First Preview". Retrieved 12 April 2011.
  3. ^ "PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: The Motherf**ker with the Hat – Asterisks Over Broadway",, April 12, 2011.
  4. ^ a b Caramanica, Jon (March 3, 2011). "Comedian, Rebranded". New York Times. Retrieved 13 April 2011.
  5. ^ a b Marilyn Stasio (11 April 2011), The Motherfucker with the Hat, Variety, retrieved 2011-04-12
  6. ^ "The Motherf**ker with the Hat",, accessed 12 April 2011.
  7. ^ Gans, Andrew. "Motherf**ker with the Hat, Starring Chris Rock, Extends Broadway Run Through July",, May 11, 2011.
  8. ^ "Review" Hartford Courant, October 25, 2011
  9. ^ "Stephen Adly Guirgis Objects to Theaterworks Casting Process in 'Motherf Hartford Courant, November 30, 2011
  10. ^ "SF Gate The Motherf**ker with the Hat". Archived from the original on 2014-05-15. Retrieved 2014-05-14.
  11. ^ "National Theatre new bosses bring Chiwetel Ejiofor back after 15 years for a star season". London Evening Standard. 21 January 2015. Retrieved 21 January 2015.
  12. ^ "New Chief Executive Tessa Ross and Director Rufus Norris announce plans for their opening year at the National Theatre". National Theatre. 21 January 2015. Retrieved 21 January 2015.
  13. ^ Terry Teachout (12 April 2011). "The Motherf**cker with the Hat, Catch Me If You Can – Don't Let Its Name Be a Curse". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2011-04-13.
  14. ^ Elisabeth Vincentelli (12 April 2011). "'The Motherf**ker with the Hat' starring Chris Rock opens on Broadway". New York Post. Retrieved 2011-04-13.
  15. ^ "The Motherf**ker with the Hat". Retrieved 12 April 2011.
  16. ^ Christopher Rawson (17 November 2013). "Stage review: barebones' 'The Mother' dark, comic and passionate". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2013-12-26.
  17. ^ Riedel, Michael (April 5, 2011). "Rock's in a hard place". New York Post. Retrieved 13 April 2011.
  18. ^ Cox, Gordon (April 5, 2011). "New offerings gain steam on Broadway". Variety. Retrieved 2011-04-13.
  19. ^ Gewirtzman, David (April 11, 2011). "Broadway Grosses: April 4–10". Playbill. Archived from the original on 15 April 2011. Retrieved 13 April 2011.
  20. ^ "Chris Rock rocks Broadway". CBS. April 3, 2011. Retrieved 13 April 2011.
  21. ^ "Chris Rock – The Mother****** with the Hat *Interview (Mar.31/11)". Retrieved 13 April 2011.
  22. ^ Kennedy, Mark (March 6, 2011). "Chris Rock Adds Broadway to His Funny Resume". ABC News. Retrieved 13 April 2011.
  23. ^ "Legit grosses". Variety. July 24, 2011. p. 24.
  24. ^ "Book of Mormon, Priscilla, Sister Act, War Horse, Good People and More Are Drama League Nominees" Archived 2011-04-29 at the Wayback Machine,, April 25, 2011.
  25. ^ Gans, Andrew."Outer Critics Circle Nominees Include 'Sister Act', 'Anything Goes', 'Book of Mormon' " Archived 2011-04-29 at the Wayback Machine, April 26, 2011
  26. ^ Andrew, Gans. "56th Annual Drama Desk Nominations Announced; Book of Mormon Scores 12 Nominations" Archived 2011-09-02 at the Wayback Machine,, April 29, 2011.
  27. ^ "Awards and nominations" Archived 2012-10-24 at the Wayback Machine,
  28. ^ "Chosen By You! 2011 Audience Choice Award Nominations Announced",, May 5, 2011.
  29. ^ Gans, Andrew (May 10, 2011). "Ellen Barkin, Patina Miller, John Larroquette, Jim Parsons, Tony Sheldon and More Win Theatre World Awards". Archived from the original on 13 May 2011. Retrieved 10 May 2011.

External links[edit]