Review: The Motherf**ker With the Hat

“Didn’t you see the sign about ‘No shirt, no service’?”

“Didn’t you see the sign about ‘No shirt, no service’?”

Photo courtesy of Big Idea Theatre

The Motherf**ker With the Hat; 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday; $10-$20. Big Idea Theatre, 1616 Del Paso Boulevard; (916) 960-3036; Through February 13.
Rated 5.0

The Motherf**ker With the Hatyep, that’s the title of Stephen Adly Guirgis’ raw, crass, brash, in-your-face play about members of the underclass striving to survive. Currently at Big Idea Theatre, this story of a paroled drug dealer trying to stay straight, is intense, funny and full of fucks—both literal and figurative.

The characters are all struggling in purgatory and hells of their own makings but sincerely trying to better themselves. Jackie (Brandon Lancaster, whose intensity fills the stage) is just out of prison and trying to re-establish a relationship with his girlfriend Veronica (Imani Mitchell, in an impressive, gritty portrayal), a street survivor who wants to “put the ghetto on hold” but is still caught up in her addictions.

Swirling in the mix is Jackie’s AA sponsor and honorable dude Ralph (James Ralph Ellison III), Ralph’s put-upon girlfriend (Kellie Yvonne Raines), and Jackie’s sweet yet vindictive cousin Julio (Lee Anthony Williams, a great comic relief).

There is talk of street codes and loyalty creeds, but there are cracks and flips in these allegiances, providing some of the most dramatic moments in the story. It’s alternatively sad, desperate, funny, shocking and touching—with damaged characters, violent tendencies and strange senses of honor—all portrayed with strong language and storylines that never feel gratuitous.

The impressive cast is flawless with a palpable chemistry between all of them. And all are under the watchful direction of Katie Rubin who keeps her cast focused, appropriately fidgety and strangely endearing despite their characters’ flaws.