The Motherf**ker With The Hat


Stephen Adly Gurigis
The Motherf**ker With The Hat

Directed by Anna D. Shapiro

At Steppenwolf Theatre, Chicago

Strong adult language fuels insightful drama about addiction and self-delusional behavior

Director Anna D. Shapiro and playwright Stephan Adly Guirgis have teamed up to present The Motherf**ker With The Hat at Steppenwolf Theatre after a successful Broadway run. The gritty and raw play contains more F-word bombs than a military arsenal than, once I got into Guirgis’ story, I started to appreciate how the playwright uses profanity to both energize and emotionally enrich his characters. These damaged characters lack the vocabulary to express themselves, therefore the F-word becomes their modifier of choice. Don’t let that deter you from seeing this fine play.


We meet Jackie (John Ortiz), a recovering alcoholic and ex-con as he surprises his girlfriend Veronica (Sandra Delgado), herself an addict and whore. Jackie’s good news (that he has found a job) is muddled when he finds a black hat in her apartment that isn’t his. This fuels a funny and heated exchange between the two lovers. Jackie is bent on revenge but he visits his sponsor, Ralph D. (Jimmy Smits) for guidance. Ralph D. appears to be a well-functioning recovered addict but he has human flaws as he crosses the line and violates the “code.” Add Ralph D.’s estranged wife Victoria (Sandra Marquez) and Jackie’s Cousin Julio (Gary Perez) and you have a group of misfits each struggling with their demons. The result is a fast-paced and often hilarious look at modern love and self-delusional behavior.


At first, we dislike these foul-mouthed losers but eventually we see their vulnerability and humanity as their struggles become deeply familiar. We grow to empathize with each. Much of our sympathy comes from the fully truthful performances. Delgados’ Veronica is sensual and desperate while Ralh D. is strong yet honest in his adultery. Perez plays Cousin Julio with blunt honesty while Victoria’s rage emerges. But the most interesting character is John Ortiz’s Jackie. We care about this guy because beneath his flaws lies a person with more than one worthy personal trait. We become fully engaged as we laugh often but  we appreciate the richly charged language and the keen life observations put forth, especially from Rald D. and Cousin Julio.


The Motherf**ker With The Hat is , indeed, about addiction on many levels that ultimately shows us how we keep fooling ourselves as we use our addictions  or habits to keep ourselves from taking responsibility for our lives. This play  contains lessons on how we use our habits or addictions to mask our self-delusional behavior. It has much to say and it says it with humor and profanity. I think this is Stephen Adly Guirgis’ finest play. Jimmy Smits and John  Ortiz are particularly outstanding here.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: January 8, 2013

Jeff Recommended


For more info checkout The Motherf**ker With The Hat page at

At Steppenwolf Theatre, 1650 N.Halsted, Chicago, IL, call 312-335-1650,, tickets $20 – $86,Tuesdays thru Sundays at 7:30 pm, matinees on select Wednesdays at 2pm and matinees on select Saturdays and sundaes at 3pm, rinning time is 1 hour and 50 minutes without intermission, through March 3, 2013

One thought on “The Motherf**ker With The Hat

  • David Randall

    Saw this play last week. It sucks.

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