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Regional Reviews by Fred Sokol

The Mother-F#@*&r With the Hat
TheatreWorks of Hartford

The Mother-F#@*&r With the Hat
Varin Ayala
The first thirty-five minutes or so of Stephen Adly Guirgis's The Mother-F#@*&r With the Hat, continuing at Hartford's TheaterWorks through December 4th, is incandescent. The opening section very much transports observers to a distinctively edgy time and place. While the quintet of actors maintains its stirring and elevated level of performance throughout, the script itself is actually redundant at times before arriving at its lovely and truly moving conclusion.

The play with the censored title finds alluring, cocaine snorting, alcohol dependent Veronica (Clea Alsip) in love and hate with Jackie (Ben Cole) who is on parole after having recently been released from prison. Their attraction for one another, though, includes contradictions which including magnetic appeal juxtaposed with a mutual and inescapable tension.

Jackie is immediately and irrationally suspicious of Veronica when he finds a man's hat on her bureau. He goes to his 12-step program sponsor Ralph (Royce Johnson), a swift talker whose relationship with red-headed Victoria (Vanessa Wasche) is another doozy.

The fifth member of the cast is Jackie's cousin Julio (Varin Ayala), a colloquial conversationalist who lets Jackie know that he likes him a great deal but, on the other hand, never did. There is a certain gun which is pivotal as the plot unfolds and Julio has it for a time.

The setting or, more appropriately, background for the goings-on, as designed by Donald Eastman, is a shabby hotel-like interior. The couches and tables (moved rapidly by stagehands and actors) shift to indicate scene changes from one living space to another.

Guirgis's characters are ever engaging. Julio (an advocate of health foods) is rich and complex. Victoria is sharply perceptive. Ralph has initial answers but then runs out of responses. The current production, though, belongs to Alsip and Cole as the lead couple. She, as Veronica, is sexy, confused and dysfunctional while projecting a vulnerability and warmth which is undeniably appealing. He, playing Jackie, is desperate—to find and right himself, to stay with Veronica. Jackie is insanely jealous, tends not to trust, and is coming off his stint in prison.

Guirgis is a talented writer. One might argue that the multitude of obscenities fit well with characters depicted. Four letter words, however, do become old and even repetitious. Tazewell Thompson, directing, makes many fine choices as he pushes the dialogue and facilitates the verbal jousting and accompanying sparks. The playwright provides a fair amount of comedy, some dark and some obvious, as Mother-F#@*&r unfolds. This is the American regional premiere of the play, one which will thrill a certain proportion but not all theatergoers.

The Mother-F#@*&r with the Hat runs at TheaterWorks of Hartford through December 4th. For tickets, call (860) 527-7838 or visit www.theaterworkshartford.org.


Photo: Lanny Nagler


Also see the current theatre schedule for Connecticut & Beyond

- Fred Sokol



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