Who is the Motherf**ker who left a hat in Veronica's apartment (and, by extension, who is f**king Veronica)? This is the question that sets up the action in THE MOTHERF**KER WITH THE HAT, the Stephen Adly Guirgis-written and Anna D. Shapiro-helmed play which opened tonight at the Shoenfeld. It's a quick, breathless ride that carries with it themes of infidelity, alcoholism and addiction, the limits and rules of friendship, and the trials and tribulations
of relationships. We here at Tableau Your Mind are not theater critics (more like theater appreciators), so it's not really our place to review review the play. It's probably better to look at what we noticed, ratings aside.
- People-watching is a lot of fun at the theater. This is especially true on opening nights in theaters, because the people you're watching are sometimes also famous. Comedians Ricky Gervais, Jerry Seinfeld, and Louis C.K. were there (Chris Rock, who stars in the play, also stars with them in a new HBO comedy special Talking Funny). Gervais's laugh was a pervasive laugh (which is fun to say out loud).
- Also in attendance: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Spike Lee, Jason Reitman, Win Win's Thomas McCarthy, someone who I think was Sutton Foster, and the soulfully intense Arian Moayed. It was class, all the way.
- The play is very talky. Characters love to eloquently express their inner emotions (often fueled by drugs and alcohol), and the tricky dialogue requires the actors to emote while simultaneously working verbal gymnastics. Sometimes the scenes drag on when they are overly filled with this sort of smart-speak, angry linguistics, but more often than not it works.
- Everyone else in the audience must have gotten some sort of insert telling them to participate in the show, because they talked openly to the characters as if they were watching intense, dramatic improv. There are a few moments of comedy and drama that are intended for a Spanish-speaking audience, and any time those moments occurred the audience erupted. There were actual finger snaps and "Oh no she didn't"s bandied about. It was pretty awesome.
- Everyone in the cast was great. Bobby Cannavale was dark and emotionally raw in a way that we here at Tableau haven't seen on screen. Chris Rock was a joy to behold, his quick-fire wit and energy reminiscent of his remarkable Dogma performance of yesteryear. He twists and works his dialogue in remarkable ways. Elizabeth Rodriguez, as drug-addled Veronica, is a manic sprite of chaos. She's basically a cracked out, Puerto Rican Cheri Oteri, and she never lets up! Also great: the touching Annabella Sciorra and the charismatic and complicated Yul Vazquez. It's simply a stellar cast.
- The set design: superb. The play takes place in three apartments, and the set spins and contorts to make each apartment its own with simple touches and fun, rotating walls and couches. It became less exciting as the play went on, but each set change was a seamless and visual treat.
- Usually, in plays that start comedic and get more dramatic, there is a moment where, all of a sudden, shit gets real. In this play, that moment never occurs. Instead, the drama and despair is weaved into the fabric of the characters from the very first moment, the happy moments punctuated by serious emotional drama. For instance, Chris Rock's Ralph makes fun of his wife for her unwillingness to make smoothies, but his jokes are deepened by the hatred and love he feels for her. The play complicated and messy, which is clearly one of its greatest strengths.