Hypocrisy Rules In Steppenwolf’s “The Motherf**cker With The Hat”

409.th.th.op.TheMotherfuckerwiththeHatNEWThere is a lot going on in Stephen Adly Guirgis’ The Motherf**cker With The Hat which is getting a superior Chicago premiere at Steppenwolf.  Fresh off a Broadway run featuring Chris Rock and with director Anna D. Shapiro in tow, Hat is a complex dramady where manipulation and hypocrisy get taken to new levels all under the auspices of addiction.

Guirgis’ five person play opens with a coke-addicted Veronica (the vibrant Sandra Delgado) welcoming home her newly employed boyfriend Jackie (John Ortiz) who just finished serving a prison sentence for a drug conviction.  When Jackie finds a man’s hat on the table, thoughts of infidelity abound. He turns to his Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor Ralph D. (Jimmy Smits) for advice.  We soon discover that Ralph’s embracing of the 12 step program comes with many caveats and that things are not as they would appear.  Thrown into the may lay is Jackie’s gay cousin Julio (Gary Perez) who has an addiction of his own and Ralph’s wife Victoria (Sandra Marquez) who in turn has a crush on Jackie.

As in other Guirgis plays, notably The Last Days of Judas Iscariot and Jesus Hopped The “A” Train, the idea of hypocrisy and betrayal from those that are to be trusted become the most flawed.   The character’s in The Motherf**cker With The Hat  are each presented under the guise of what a recovering addict covets; and that is the idea that the addict is powerless over drugs and/or alcohol and must re-learn basic life tenants with a new code.  What Guirgis reveals, and quite rightly so, is that just because a person is recovering, that fact doesn’t necessarily make them a good person.

Ms. Shapiro directs her able cast with verve but on opening, they still seemed a bit under rehearsed.   All the performers are certainly up for the task of making these characters assessable and even at times likable.  There are two standouts here.  Mr. Smits is a commanding presence on the stage with great comic timing to boot and Ms. Delgado proves once again that she is a force of nature no matter what character she is playing.   Speaking of stages, set designer Todd Rosenthal has re-reated his Broadway set which masterfully flips and turns making the scene changes as fun to watch as the show itself.

The Motherf**cker With The Hat continues through March 3, 2013 at Steppenwolf Theatre, 1050 N. Halsted St. Tickets to The Motherf**ker with the Hat ($20 – $86) are currently on sale through Audience Services (1650 N Halsted St), 312-335-1650 and steppenwolf.org. 20 for $20: twenty $20 tickets are available through Audience Services beginning at 11am on the day of each performance (1pm for Sunday performances). Rush Tickets: half-price rush tickets are available one hour before each show. Student Discounts: a limited number of $15 student tickets are available online using promo code “HAT15”. Limit 2 tickets per student; must present a valid student ID for each ticket. For additional student discounts, visit steppenwolf.org/students. Group Tickets: all groups of 10 or more receive a discounted rate for any performance throughout the season. For additional information, visit steppenwolf.org/groups. For calendar information please visit www.TheatreInChicago.com