'With the Hat' not your typical holiday treacle
“The (expletive) With the Hat,” a decidedly adult love story, offers an escape from the holiday season's usual sugar-coated theater fare.
Stephen Adly Guirgis' play, directed by Rich Keitel, is the latest from barebones productions. If the title wasn't enough to jog your memory, you might recall it as the play in which Chris Rock and Bobby Cannavale starred on Broadway last year.
A swear jar onstage for charity would probably draw enough quarters to add a wing to the closest hospital.
This gritty story examines the addict's struggle against enablers, manipulation and self-destructive relationships.
Jackie (Patrick Jordan, the multitalented barebones founder and artistic director), recently released from jail, drug- and alcohol-free, is excited about his new job: “Yo, the best part? Career advancement!”
He's been with his girlfriend Veronica (petite, curly-haired Ruth Gamble, who gives as good as she gets) since they were kids. She still enjoys her addictions.
Love is in the air, until Joe notices a hat — like “Zorro leaving his ‘Z' all over the scene of the crime!” — and accuses Veronica of cheating on him.
And we're off.
A quick-fire, blistering argument ensues. Jackie heads off to his AA sponsor Ralph (Edwin Lee Gibson) to rant and rave. Ralph and trophy wife Victoria (Daina Michelle Griffith) invite him to stay at their apartment. He visits cousin Julio (Leandro Cano) to ask him to hide a gun. (“Leave the gun; take the empanadas.”)
The strong cast play well off each other in this fast-paced piece. We're drawn into the story and to each well-crafted character.
Veronica “cleans” by kicking clothes under the bed. Gay, soft-bodied cousin Julio volunteers to defend Jackie's honor: “Say the word and believe me — Van Damme will happen.”
Ralph is the charming nutrition-supplement salesman, a smug man with all the answers, who deftly maneuvers those around him. We hear how his wife, Victoria, in recovery, fell for him and gave up her lucrative Wall Street job. “I threw my life away because I thought I met my soulmate. And the truth is that there's no such thing.”
The language of 12-step programs is fully integrated in the dialogue. We learn about the Circle of Self-Sabotage. That the “Acceptance” passage can be found on page 449 in the big book. The importance of attending meetings.
As set designer, Douglas McDermott's three complete apartments, as different as the people who inhabit them, nimbly spin on- and off-stage between acts with minimal fuss.
It is unfortunate that “The (expletive) With the Hat” is billed as a comedy. Expectations of a laugh riot only lead to disappointment. Really, it's a poignant drama — worth seeing on its own merit — with comic relief.
So who was the blankety-blank with the hat? The mystery is revealed in a surprise twist well before the bittersweet conclusion.
Sally Quinn is deputy managing editor for features for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7885 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates hit 3 HRs in rout of Red Sox
- McKeesport gardeners enjoy fruits of their labors
- 10 years ago, Hurricane Ivan brought record rain to region
- 2 men shot outside Duquesne bar
- Starkey: Two amazing Pirates fans
- Steelers defense a long way from ‘greatest of all time’
- South Allegheny adds robotics course
- Police chase ends with shooting in Bell Township; suspect wounded
- 150 attend East Allegheny teachers union forum
- Number of jobs in high-tech industry outpace workers in Pittsburgh, nation
- Pirates notebook: Castillo’s debut underscores challenges in Cuban market