Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Las Vegas

The Motherfucker with the Hat
Las Vegas Little Theatre
Review by Mary LaFrance

Also see Mary's review of Wit


D.J. Hale and Rene F. Cobar
Photo by Kris Mayeshiro
Something exciting is happening at the Las Vegas Little Theatre. This month's production at the Fischer Black Box, Stephen Adly Guirgis's dark comedy The Motherfucker with the Hat, showcases a terrific ensemble of talented, diverse, and relatively young performers. Even on opening weekend, the cast acquitted themselves like seasoned pros. In all likelihood, their performances will deepen later in the run. So run, don't walk, to catch this production before it closes. We can only hope to see these gifted artists in future productions in the Valley.

Jackie, recently paroled after a drug conviction, arrives at the apartment of his longtime girlfriend Veronica to celebrate finally landing a job. The party skids to a halt, however, when Jackie discovers what he thinks is evidence of her infidelity. Exploding with rage, he jumps to conclusions about the other guilty party, and impulsively violates his parole before turning to Ralph D, his Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor. Ralph D brags about his own journey to enlightenment (which includes yoga, surfing, archery, and soy milk), but seems merely amused at the open disdain of his wife and fellow AA member Victoria, who we soon discover has a wandering eye of her own.

When he finally discovers his rival's true identity, Jackie plots his revenge and enlists the aid of his cousin and polar-opposite Julio, a health guru and massage therapist. After failing to calm Jackie down with spirulina and spinach empanadas, Julio transforms himself into Jean-Claude Van Damme, and accompanies Jackie to a final confrontation with the deceitful homewrecker. In the course of events, sobriety is abandoned, and the sustainability of long-term relationships is questioned intensely if incoherently through a haze of alcohol, pot, and self-delusion.

It's a lovely train wreck, and if the performers don't always nail the comic moments it's only because they are so deeply committed to their characters' pain. For the most part, they don't seem to be acting at all. D.J. Hale is particularly strong as Jackie; his intensity never flags, yet he also seems completely natural in the character's rare moments of peace. Amanda Guardado is also convincing as the coke-sniffing Veronica, who seems to love Jackie but chooses what is easy and expedient over anything that requires effort and commitment. Ronn L. Williams as Ralph D and Gigi Guizado as Victoria do a fine job as the combative AA couple who find common ground only in pancakes.

As Julio, Rene F. Cobar is the cast member most in tune with the play's comedic side. The peripatetic Cobar makes great use of his expressive body and a face so flexible that it seems to be made of some bizarre nanotech plastic.

Director Brandon Alan McClenahan has brought out the best in the cast, and comes up short only in failing to exploit the play's full comic potential. His traverse staging slightly shortchanges the audience seated on the far side of the acting space, but permits the actors to enter and exit through the theatre's actual outside doors, adding a touch of realism to the characters' urban apartments as the audience catches an occasional glimpse of the parking lot outside.

Yale Yeandel's set design works well to differentiate the three apartments, and the creative use of area lighting (by lighting designers Kendra Harris and Raphael Daniels) helps to smooth the scene transitions. In a nice comic touch, the crew members sport jaunty hats during the set changes.

The play feels a bit long, because some of the extended scenes become repetitious due to the missed comic opportunities. This may improve later in the run. Regardless, the play is a smart choice for LVLT, and a welcome opportunity to experience a new generation of fine performers.

The Motherfucker with the Hat runs through November 19, 2017, (Thursday-Saturday at 8 pm, Sundays at 2 pm) at the Las Vegas Little Theatre, 3920 Schiff Dr., Las Vegas, NV 89103. For tickets ($15 general admission, $14 seniors and students) or further information, go to www.lvlt.org.

Cast:
Veronica: Amanda Guardado
Jackie: D.J. Hale
Ralph D: Ronn L. Williams
Victoria: Gigi Guizado
Cousin Julio: Rene F. Cobar

Additional Creative:
Sound design by Sandy Stein; costume design by Kim Glover.


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