Only in Washington do you go to the theater to witness painful drug use, hear language so offensive it makes your ears ring, be confronted with full-frontal nudity, and still walk away thinking, good Lord that show was awesome.
When I first read the description of “The Motherfucker with the Hat” (yes, you read that play title correctly, people) I was a little hesitant to see it. A story about addiction? Why would I need to see a story about addiction when so many people around me are living it? It did not sound like entertainment to me.
Indeed, my opinions were swayed a mere three minutes into the show, when Jackie, the lead, lost his cool over a seemingly innocent hat he found in the apartment he shares with girlfriend, Veronica. The story twists and turns quickly from there, the other four actors giving just as powerful performances.
The Studio Theatre is a small venue, but a play this good makes you forget that you’re seeing live acting—I got totally lost in it. Also, the Stephen Adly Guirgis script is brilliant, fast-moving and vulgar yet completely wise to the world.
But really, in the end, “Motherfucker” is not a story about foul language or addiction. Indeed it starts that way: The newly sober Jackie is so madly in love with his childhood sweetheart Veronica but both of them are relentless addicts and easily ensnared by quick-talking AA sponsors.
At the bottom of it all, it’s a story about love. It’s about looking within yourself to figure out what’s wrong and what’s right. And at the very end, it’s about loving yourself enough to walk away from something toxic.
Addicts notoriously hurt everyone around them, and they eventually hurt themselves. To overcome that addiction you have to get to a point where you’re truly ready to give up. It was astonishing to see five incredibly talented actors go through this process together in two fast-moving hours.
It made for a incredible play, regardless of how much my ears were ringing from the language.
The Motherfucker with the Hat is at the Studio Theatre until March 10. Get tickets here.