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The Motherfucker with the Hat review at Tron Theatre, Glasgow – ‘lacking in passion’

Francois Pandolfoand Renee Williams in The Motherfucker with the Hat at Tron Theatre, Glasgow. -Photo: John Johnston Francois Pandolfoand Renee Williams in The Motherfucker with the Hat at Tron Theatre, Glasgow. -Photo: John Johnston

Stephen Adly Guirgis’ 2011 play The Motherfucker with the Hat boldly addresses the problems of addiction and the moral dishonesty of the rhetoric of recovery.

Former drug dealer Jackie (Francois Pandolfo) is trying to stay clean after a stretch in prison. With lover Veronica still taking drugs and drinking, his AA sponsor Ralph offers a vision of a life that, despite his promises, remains mired in deceit.

Andy Arnold’s production is handsomely designed across three levels by Kenny Miller – with each level representing a different home, the ladder of success that Jackie hopes to climb. While Arnold’s direction is measured, the production fails to embody the urgency of the themes.

Pandolfo feels miscast as Jackie, struggling with his accent. While Kyle Lima’s Cousin Julio conjures necessary pathos as he reflects on his shared history with Jackie, and clearly enjoys the comedic burlesque of his macho posturing, the production doesn’t fully engage with the seriousness of the subject or the play’s bursts of wit. The various arguments between the characters are presented without physical dynamism and the fight choreography is flaccid.

There are sparks of humour in the writing, the language bursting sporadically into a slang poetry of rage and frustration and the contrast between Ralph’s cynical sobriety and Veronica’s honest hedonism provokes questions about how righteousness is more than a commodity and highlights Jackie’s tragic failure to break free of a cycle of self-destructive behaviour. But Arnold’s production lacks the requisite energy to bring this all to life – it stumbles in the face of its own intensity.

 

Verdict
Tepid production of Stephen Adly Guirgis’ rage against addiction that lacks sufficient passion
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