Friday, January 11, 2013

ACT OUT REVIEW: The Motherf**ker With the Hat Highly Recommended at Steppenwolf #review

Veronica (Sandra Delgado) leaps into Jackie’s (John Ortiz) arms when he tells her that he found a job.   (All Production Photos by Michael Brosilow)



Amid the tumultuous turning of the set pieces, two couples' lives twist and become enmeshed.   Lies and lust, addictions and contradictions abound in this hilarious love story.   The Motherf**ker With The Hat plays out on an impressive stage where three living spaces revolve in and out of view and sofas and a bed rotate and flip out of the floor to the urban cacophony of sirens.   In a similar fashion, Jackie and Veronica flip between infidelity, jealousy, and undying love.   And the gay, passive pansy of an uncle who just wants to feed and nurture everyone, turns out to have a vindictive Van Damme streak.

(right to left) Couson Julio (Gary Perez) cooks breakfast for Jackie (John Ortiz)

We're completely enamored with Todd Rosenthal's set!    We dug the play of light and shadows as the fire escapes and balconies add the illusion of urban height, and the three entwined living spaces are pure genius as the perfect playground for Motherf**ker's passions to play out.

Critics focus on the addiction versus AA help and hypocrisy in the script.   Yet The Motherf**ker With The Hat is all about what we let into our bodies, including food, drugs and people, and whether they're good for us or harmful.   It's this all too human conundrum of desiring the pancake and sausage dinner while making healthy vegan fare, or seeking out the forbidden lover or revenge screw.   It's about green protein eggs and energy drinks that taste terrible but bring strength and health, and living a sober AA farce while binge drinking on the sly.   It's about doing lines and feeding people lines.

Sandra Delgado as Veronica

Unwitting neighbors become enemies.  Friends are not what they seem.   The characters all wear many metaphorical hats and everyone's got something to hide.   Anna D. Shapiro is back with a retooled version of her Tony Award nominated Broadway hit that's stronger for it's simmering intensity.   The original was criticized for being louder and more over the top.   In the more than capable hands of Steppenwolf's expert cast, this rendition glows with a vengeance.   The Motherf**ker With The Hat makes our ChiILpicks highly recommended list.   Jeff recommended.

Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s highly anticipated production of The Motherf**ker with the Hat by Stephen Adly Guirgis is here!   Ensemble member Anna D. Shapiro directs following the Tony Award-nominated Broadway premiere, with an all-star ensemble cast featuring Sandra Delgado, Sandra MarquezGary PerezJohn Ortiz and Jimmy Smits and members of the original design team: scenic designer Todd Rosenthal, lighting designer Donald Holder and composer Terence BlanchardThe Motherf**ker with the Hat runs through March 3, 2013 in Steppenwolf’s Downstairs Theatre (1650 N Halsted St). Tickets ($20 – $86) are on sale now. This play contains adult language.

Things are looking up for recovering alcoholic Jackie and his girlfriend Veronica—until Jackie spots another man's hat in their apartment and embarks on a sublimely incompetent quest for vengeance. Fast-paced and uproarious, Mother is a gleefully foul-mouthed look at modern love and other addictions.

“I think what Stephen is up to in the play is that he is creating people who may seem different from the ones sitting next to us in the theater but who become, over the course of the play, deeply human, deeply familiar and deeply sympathetic. And the play is funny! And surprising,” comments Artistic Director Martha Lavey. “The language is musical and poetic and deeply passionate. Stephen has created characters whose mode of expression is both energized and bound by a profusion of profanity.”

 (right to left) Jackie (John Ortiz) takes his sponsor, Ralph D. (Jimmy Smits) to visit his Cousin Julio

The cast of The Motherf**ker with the Hat features Sandra Delgado as Veronica, Sandra Marquez as Victoria,Gary Perez as Cousin Julio, John Ortiz as Jackie and Jimmy Smits as Ralph D. The production team includes: Todd Rosenthal (scenic design), Linda Roethke (costume design), Donald Holder (lighting design), Rob Milburn andMichael Bodeen (sound design) and Terence Blanchard (original music). Additional credits include: Erica Daniels(casting), Matt Hawkins (fight choreographer), Cecilie O’Reilly (voice coach) Kim Osgood (stage manager) andChristine D. Freeburg (assistant stage manager). Photos and bio information for all artists are available upon request.

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.org20 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, Tickets: all groups of 10 or more receive a discounted rate for any performance throughout the season. For additional information, visit

Free post-show discussions are offered after every performance in the Subscription Season. Steppenwolf is located near all forms of public transportation and is wheelchair accessible. Street and lot parking are available. Assistive listening devices and large-print programs are available for every performance.

John Ortiz as Jackie in Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s production of The Motherf**ker with the Hat by Stephen Adly Guirgis, directed by ensemble member Anna D. Shapiro. The Motherf**ker with the Hat runs December 28, 2012 – March 3, 2013 in Steppenwolf’s Downstairs Theatre (1650 N Halsted St).

Director Anna D. Shapiro joined the Steppenwolf Theatre Company ensemble in 2005 and was awarded the 2008 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play for August: Osage County (Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Broadway, London). She was nominated in 2011 in the same category for The Motherf**ker with the Hat (The Public Theater, LAByrinth Theater Company). Other directing credits at Steppenwolf Theatre Company include Three SistersA ParallelogramUpThe CrucibleThe Unmentionables (also at Yale Repertory Theatre), The Pain and the Itch (also in New York), I Never Sang for My FatherMan from NebraskaPurple Heart (also in Galway, Ireland), The Drawer BoySide Man (also in Ireland, Australia and Vail, Colorado), Three Days of Rain and The Infidel. Other credits include A Number (American Conservatory Theater); The Drawer Boy (Paper Mill Playhouse); Iron (Manhattan Theatre Club); and The Infidel (Philadelphia Theatre Company). She is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama and Columbia College Chicago and is the recipient of the 1996 Princess Grace Award. She is a full professor in Northwestern University’s Department of Theatre and has served as the director of the MFA in Directing program since 2002.

Playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis is co-artistic director of New York City's LAByrinth Theater Company. His plays have been produced on five continents and throughout the United States. They include Our Lady of 121st Street(Drama Desk, Lucille Lortel, Outer Critics Circle Best Play nominations, 10 best plays of 2003), Jesus Hopped the 'A' Train (Edinburgh Festival Fringe First Award, Barrymore Award, Olivier Nomination for London's Best New Play), In Arabia, We'd All Be Kings (2007 LA Drama Critics Best Play, Best Writing Award), The Last Days of Judas Iscariot(10 Best, Time magazine and Entertainment Weekly) and The Little Flower of East Orange (starring Elen Burstyn and Michael Shannon) at The Public Theater. All five plays were originally produced by LAByrinth Theater Company and directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman. The Motherf**ker with the Hat marks his third consecutive world premiere co-production with The Public Theater. In London, his plays have premiered at The Donmar Warehouse, The Almeida (directed by Rupert Goold), The Hampstead (directed by Robert Delamere) and at The Arts in the West End. Other plays include Den of Thieves(HERE, HAI Theater Festival) and Dominica the Fat Ugly Ho (directed Adam Rapp) for the 2006 E.S.T. Marathon. He has received a 2006 PEN/Laura Pels Award, a 2006 Whiting Award and a 2004 TCG fellowship, new play commissions from Manhattan Theatre Club, Center Theater Group and South Coast Repertory, and is a member of LAByrinth Theater Company, New Dramatists, MCC's Playwright's Coalition, Ojai Playwrights Festival and New River Dramatists. Television writing credits include NYPD BlueThe Sopranos, David Milch's CBS drama Big Apple and Shane Salerno's NBC series UC: Undercover. As an actor, Stephen has had leading film roles in Todd Solondz's Palindromes, Brett C. Leonard's Jailbait (opposite Michael Pitt) and in Kenneth Lonergan's upcoming Margaret. Other film credits include Philip Seymour Hoffman's Jack Goes Boating, Charlie Kaufman’sSynecdoche New York, Adam Rapp's Blackbird, Noah Buschel's Neal Cassady as well as Meet Joe Black (directed by Martin Brest), Noise (directed by Henry Bean), Trainwreck: My Life as an Idiot (directed by Todd Harrsion Williams) and television’s Law and Order. He directed Liza Colon-Zayas' Sistah Supreme for Danny Hoch's Hip Hop Theater Festival, Marco Greco's award-winning Behind the Counter with Mussolini in New York and Los Angeles and Melanie Maras's Kiss Me on the Mouth (InViolet Rep/CSNY). A former HIV Educator and Violence Prevention Specialist, he lives in New York City.

Steppenwolf Theatre Company is America’s longest standing, most distinguished ensemble theater, producing nearly 700 performances and events annually in its three Chicago theater spaces—the 515-seat Downstairs Theatre, the 299-seat Upstairs Theatre and the 80-seat Garage Theatre. Formed in 1976 by a collective of actors, Steppenwolf has grown into an ensemble of 43 actors, writers and directors. Artistic programming at Steppenwolf includes a five-play Subscription Season, a two-play Steppenwolf for Young Adults season and three repertory series: First Look Repertory of New Work, Garage Rep and Next Up. While firmly grounded in the Chicago community, nearly 40 original Steppenwolf productions have enjoyed success both nationally and internationally, including Off-Broadway, Broadway, London, Sydney and Dublin. Steppenwolf has the distinction of being the only theater to receive the National Medal of Arts, in addition to numerous other prestigious honors including an Illinois Arts Legend Award and nine Tony Awards. Martha Lavey is the Artistic Director and David Hawkanson is the Executive Director. Nora Daley is Chair of Steppenwolf’s Board of Trustees. For additional information, visit and

The 2012/13 Subscription Season also includes The Birthday Party by Harold Pinter, directed by ensemble member Austin Pendleton (January 24 – April 28, 2013) in the Upstairs Theatre; Head of Passes by ensemble member Tarell Alvin McCraney, directed by ensemble member Tina Landau (April 4 – June 9, 2013) in the Downstairs Theatre; and Belleville by Amy Herzog, directed by Anne Kauffman (June 27 – August 25, 2013) in the Downstairs Theatre.

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