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The Theatreguide.London Review

The Motherf**ker With The Hat
Lyttelton Theatre  Summer 2015

There are some plays that may not change the world or even have a lot to say, but that provide thoroughly satisfying and entertaining experiences by introducing you to believable and sympathetic characters whose company you can enjoy for an evening. 

I'm not sure whether this Broadway transfer by Stephen Adly Guirgis is a serious drama with a lot of laughs or a comedy with some leavening serious moments. I do know that it draws you into its world instantly and holds you there with a warmth and humour you will regret having to leave at the end. 

Hispanic New Yorker Jackie is a recovering alcoholic fresh out of jail, with a new job and beautiful girlfriend Veronica, when he spots a man's hat that is not his in her bedroom. Concluding that it must belong to the hat-wearing bastard downstairs, he sets off on a quest of vengeance. 

This takes him first to his Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor (the guy you go to to stop you from taking a drink) Ralph and his wife Victoria, and then to Jackie's cousin Julio, who doesn't particularly like him but is bound by family ties to help. 

Small spoiler alert: Jackie's wrong about the owner of the hat, though not about what it implies. In the course of the play several of the characters will be shown to have slept with each other, be currently sleeping with each other or be tempted to sleep with each other, in most cases violating a friendship as well as a romantic relationship. 

All of this is treated with a wit and humour that sometimes approach French bedroom farce. But if there is a message to the play, it may be that a degree of betrayal is almost inevitable in almost any relationship, and that to just get along in this imperfect world we might have to give more credit to good intentions and less condemnation of failure to live up to them. 

With three-fifths of the cast brought from the Broadway production, director Indhu Rubasingham's accomplishment lies largely in retaining the original spirit and tone in a fresh staging. 

Ricardo Chavira makes Jackie frequently foolish and almost always out of his depth but also, while making it clear that he brings many of his problems on himself, conveys a core of honesty and good will that holds our empathy. 

Flor De Liz Perez doesn't disguise that Veronica is probably the most flawed figure there but makes her so completely empty of malice that she can't become the villain of the piece. 

And Yul Vzquez effortlessly steals every scene he's in as the plain-speaking, no-nonsense but ultimately loving cousin with a knack for cutting through the bull and getting to what's really important at any moment. 

The two London newcomers to the cast fit smoothly into the ensemble. Alec Newman convinces us that there is no contradiction between Ralph's solid and sincere counsel as AA sponsor and his failings and betrayals in other areas, while Nathalie Armin's Victoria is a generous performance there to demonstrate some of the collateral damage of the others' mishaps. 

We never do meet the hat-wearing mutha downstairs. But the people we do meet all ring true, and their misadventures hold, involve and entertain us.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - The Motherf**ker With The Hat - National Theatre 2015 

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