Edelman: A Motherfucker of a New Play at The Unicorn

The Unicorn Theatre kicks the 2012-13 theater season into coked-up overdrive with the area premier of Stephen Guirgis‘ delightful, touching comedy The Motherfucker With the Hat (now through September 30 at the theater at 3828 Main).

Spoiler alert– this play is a Motherfucker!

A darling of NYC’s off-off-Broadway scene (and onetime contributor to “NYPD Blue” and “The Sopranos”), playwright Guirgis has created one of the wildest dramatis personaes you’re ever going to see in a Kansas City theater.

Jackie is an ex-con  addict with a fuse the size of his dick. He’s in love with Veronica, his childhood sweetheart from el barrio who’s wound up even tighter than Jackie. Add to that messy mix  Jackie’s wise-ass AA sponsor Ralphie D, Raphie D’s depressed wife and Jackie’s lovable empanada-baking health freak of a cousin and you may begin to wonder whether you’re actually at the Unicorn or down the corner at 39th, buying blow.

Jackie and Veronica carry on a love/hate relationship that splatters the audience, it’s so intense. Motherfucker With the Hat is a play about addictions, and these battered folks are in way too deep. I know the premise sounds horrible– but in the expert hands of  Guirgis, what we get is a very funny, often poignant morality play that reaches out and touches, even the JoCo matrons at a Unicorn matinee.

Director Sidonie Garrett– who’s usually doing the men in tights thing as the Shakespeare Festival‘s artistic director— does a nice job keeping things humming along. But, like they say– it’s 90% casting. And if Sid did us all a huge favor, it was putting together the terrific cast that makes this Motherfucker rock.

Darren Kennedy‘s Jackie gets every inch of his wracked up character right. You can see him sweating out the issues, trying to do the right thing with a deck that is most definitely stacked against him. Kennedy’s is a commanding performance– big and bellowing one second, timid and callow the next.

What great fun, watching him try to extricate himself from the mind games Ralphie D plays on the poor sap. Through it all, Jackie’s nobility shines through. You gotta love the guy for trying.

Vanessa Severo has a tough assignment: making us care what the fuck happens to an addict. She drives Jackie crazy, but we understand how much she loves him, too (and he her– not too tough an act, with Severo in a fetching bra and panties ensemble– thank you Jesus and costume designer Megan Turek). It’s a complicated performance, just like Kennedy’s. As she has so often at the Unicorn and on stages around town, Severo comes through with all the grit and soul the role demands.

Rufus Burns does a nice job with Ralphie D, Jackie’s sponsor and wayward buddy. From his mouth, Guirgis’s ruminations on moral relativism and the “what the fuck does anything matter anyway” mantra of street life get a thought-provoking airing, fucked up though they may be (ask Jackie).

Additional kudos to Francisco Villegas as Cousin Julio and Meredith Wolfe as Ralph’s wife Victoria, who round out the just-right cast.

As usual, tech credits at the Unicorn are first class. They’ve arranged the new Jerome Stage with the audience on two sides of the little corner set, which puts the actors right in your face. There’s a nice intimacy in the space as a result– good for watching these characters tear each other up.

Like all great theater, Motherfucker is a play that gets you thinking– arguing, even, about who did the right thing (and how lucky most of us are not to have to go through the shit these characters call life). There’s a great new Parisian-style brasserie in Westport– the Westport Cafe I think it’s called– next door to The Boot on Westport Road. Go there after you see Motherfucker (any other favorite restaurant will do). Have a drink, dessert,
whatever and talk about The Motherfucker With the Hat.

It’ll do you good.

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8 Responses to Edelman: A Motherfucker of a New Play at The Unicorn

  1. mike says:

    How did this article get on here with the new policy on cuss words?

  2. Super Dave says:

    Oh I see the writers can still say what they want just the readers can’t.

    • mike says:

      I think it is a bunch of feces. It has me totaly urinated off. As far as I’m concerned, they can go have intercourse with themselves. They need their buttocks kicked. What a bunch of vaginas to impose this feces on us but not their own little candy buttocks. They may think I’m being a penis about this but I really don’t care!!!!!!!

  3. admin says:

    Well, it’s like this…

    The, uh, name of the play is what it is. The name of the writer is there for all to see.

    All we’re saying about comments is, if it appears over the line they will be screened.

    Not saying they won’t be published but I want everybody to take a few seconds to think before they post. That too much to ask?

    • mike says:

      I understand what you are saying. However, giving you a hard time over it was just too hard to pass up!

    • Super Dave says:

      It’s still selective discriminated censorship plain and simple. Freedom of speech for some and not for others.

  4. Mark says:

    Sorry. I missed the memo on cuss words. The play speaks for itself.

  5. Rick Nichols says:

    Anyone led to catch this “Motherf—er” at the Unicorny has to be a real $ucker! Hey, the grass is finally starting to grow again! Mind if I step outside for a bit and take in some real entertainment?

Comments are closed.