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Photo by Matt Mrozek.

Theater Review: Much Ado (and Cursing) About a Hat

Rating

A

Location

Kitchen Dog Theater 3120 McKinney Ave. Dallas, TX 75204

Dates

Feb. 14 thru Mar. 15

About 15 minutes into The Motherf**ker with the Hat, Christie Vela lets loose with a speech so impressively laced with profanity that the opening night audience gave her a spontaneous ovation. As the title of his Tony-nominated play indicates, Stephen Adly Guirgis isn’t messing around when it comes to language.

The characters in his play, which deals in addiction, trust, and self-destruction, are equal parts eloquent and vulgar, spouting surprisingly deep truths one moment while other times just grabbing whatever expletive is handiest. Thanks to the captivating deliveries of the Kitchen Dog Theater cast and Jaime Castañeda’s well-paced direction, the characters could be speaking Urdu and we’d still understand their thoughts on revenge and jealousy all too well.

KDT co-artistic director Christopher Carlos taps deeply into Jackie’s confused emotions and hair-trigger temper. Recently sprung from two years of drug charges upstate, Jackie is thrilled to be getting his life back together. He’s sober, has a new job, and is reunited with his longtime on-again, off-again girlfriend, Veronica (Vela, flaunting a badass attitude and accent). Things are going swell until he notices another man’s hat in his apartment, a discovery that sets Jackie on a rage-filled quest to find that libidinous m-effer and destroy him. This torrent of anger and jealousy propels the one-act play through increasingly ridiculous events before reaching its surprisingly poignant conclusion.

Bryan Wofford’s trio of set pieces cleverly delineates the different areas of Jackie’s life. The apartment he shares with Veronica is shabby and cluttered, overflowing with liquor and cosmetics bottles to clearly indicate how removed from her life he has become over the past two years. The home of his AA sponsor, Ralph D (Michael Federico, an amalgamation of every self-involved, sleazy bro you’ve ever met), is sparse and simple, with a few boxes of health shake mix stacked in the corner. His cousin Julio’s dining room is stylishly kitted out with a checkerboard floor and an assortment of fronds drooping from every available space (Anthony L. Ramirez navigates each of Julio’s lines with hilarious importance). Aaron Johansen’s zippy lighting and John M. Flores’ invigorating sound design keep the momentum strong.

The speech patterns of the actors are just as fascinating as the characters they’re playing. Jackie, Veronica, and Julio are Puerto Rican New Yorkers, and their melodious inflections skip and dance over Guirgis’ dialogue with a pleasing musicality. Ralph D mimics the cadence of a slam poet, his motivational blather lulling Jackie into hypnotized acceptance. Liza Marie Gonzalez, playing Ralph’s bitter and verbally abusive wife, brings a languidness to her scenes that exposes just how dejected she has become about her unsatisfying life. It would be enough to simply listen to these characters talk for 95 minutes, but Guirgis makes sure that what they’re saying is equally as engaging.