Chris Rock takes to the Broadway stage like a fish to water in “The Motherf**ker with the Hat,” Stephen Adly Guirgis’s entertaining if not fully focused take on the 12-step program gone awry, at the Schoenfeld Theatre. As Ralph D., the smooth-talking, self-serving, health food-ingesting sponsor of protagonist Jackie (Bobby Cannavale), Rock is a natural, delivering his lines with the same easy nonchalance he employs in his standup routine but with a fundamental commitment to play and character.
“Hat” centers on Jackie, hot-tempered and recently out of the slammer, trying to stay clean while living with his fiery childhood sweetheart, Veronica (the excellent Elizabeth Rodriguez). When he comes home and sees a man’s hat on a table, he thinks she’s been cheating on him, and things get a little out of control. He spends the night with Ralph and his wife, Victoria (Annabella Sciorra), buys and uses a gun (to shoot the hat), and asks his sexually ambiguous cousin Julio (Yul Vázquez) to hide it for him.
Guirgis has a wonderful ability to create vibrant, specific characters who speak with colorful, off-color intensity. His dialogue is fresh and funny and full of lowlife wit. But the plot’s momentum is spotty. It’s like a car that zooms along nicely but tends to stall every so often, making progress in fits and starts but never fully coming together. As beguiling as it often is, you can’t help feeling there’s something wanting.
To read Metro’s interview with Chris Rock about his new play, click here.