At Speakeasy, a mother of a morality play

BOSTON — We all have codes we live by. Some of those codes might seem, as the characters in Stephen Adly Guirgis’ funny, funky “The Motherf**ker with the Hat” might say, a little f’d up.
It’s hard to judge Guigas’ characters by traditional standards of morality. Not with the alcohol abuse, drug abuse, promiscuity, language laced with seemingly endless string of profanities — this is their world, welcome to it.
And there is a lot of streetwise humor in that world in the Speakeasy Stage production of “Mother,” now at the Roberts Studio Theatre at the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts.
Guirgis’ characters talk a good game when it comes to relationships, but the reality is that they are paragons of promiscuity, which hardly lends itself to a healthy relationship.
They know they are apt to make bad choices, so they struggle to identify the right ones But things do get complicated.

As the play opens, things are looking bright for the first time for Jackie (Jaime Carrillo) in a long time. He is free after a long stretch in upstate New York for drug dealing, has a new job, and at least for the time being, is straight and sober.

Jaime Carrillo and Evelyn Howe in “The Motherf**ker With the Hat.”
Craig Bailey/Perspective Photo

 

He surprises girlfriend Veronica (Evelyn Howe) — who is still using, snorting coke and surrounded by liquor bottles — with flowers and a stuffed animal.
While he is reveling in what he expects to be a torrid sexual encounter , he notices a very unfamiliar hat in the corner, a hat that he connects in his mind with a downstairs resident. He accuses Veronica of cheating, and a stormy argument ensues that ends with Jackie storming out of the hotel room, looking for a gun and a confrontation with the man with the hat. Uh-oh. Impulse control is not exactly Jackie’s strong point.

He gets a gun and calls on Ralph D., his Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor, to talk about the situation. Ralph (Maurice Emmanuel Parent) exudes self-confidence; he has conquered his demons and isn’t shy about talking about it. He is into vitamins, healthy juices,. yoga, archery, surfing. He’s even flossing, for Chrissakes.
He convinces Jackie to get rid of the gun and it ends up with Jackie’s cousin Julio (Alejandro Simoes), who appears to be a Latino Richard Simmons but is ever-ready to unleash his inner “Van Damme.”
Later, however, Jackie gets the gun back and confronts the owner of the hat, blasting the hat with the gun and creating yet another legal mess.

Ralph D’s wife Victoria (Melinda Lopez) knows Ralph D. is a serial cheater and she takes her pleasures where she can find them., and she targets Jackie, seeing him as a chance to get back at a double-dealing Ralph D and even helping him by letting him know what Veronica and Ralph D. have been up to behind his bank; Veronica and Ralph became an item while Jackie was stewing in a cell in upstate New York.

Set designer Eric Levenson’s eclectic drywall set shape-shifts several time during the 110 minutes of the play, starting as a hotel in Times Square and becoming apartments in Hell’s Kitchen and Washington Heights.

 

Jaime Carrillo, Maurice Emmanuel Parent and Alejandro Simoes in “The
Motherf**ker With the Hat.” Craig Bailey/Perspective Photo

Director David R. Gammons, who helmed last winter’s superb Speakeasy production of “Red,” keeps the action percolating and building; we know Jackie and Ralph D are going to have to have it out and that Jackie and Veronica, together since high school, are going to have to make a decision.

The ending is surprisingly sentimental. Guirgis’ characters will make you laugh and might disgust you at times, but they are never less than fascinating and engrossing. And at the end of the day they are still trying to do the right thing, even if that “right thing” is often hard for them to pin down.

The Speakeasy Stage Company’s production of “The Motherf**ker with the Hat,” by Stephen Adly Guirgis. Directed by David R. Gammons. At The Roberts Studio Theatre at the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, Tremont Street, Boston, through Oct. 13. For tickets, call 617 933 8600 or go to http://www.bostontheatrescene.com 
 
 
 
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