Black Swan Theatre Company
reviewed by Neville Cohn
I wouldn’t take great-aunt Mabel to The Motherf**ker with the Hat. In fact, I can think of a host of people who would be offended, even outraged, by its almost unbroken stream of profanity. Of a cast of five, three seem virtually incapable of uttering even a single sentence without lacing it with the f-word and a good deal more profanity. It’s as if they’re incapable of a coherent thought free of verbal filth.
Fayssal Bazzi, Austin Castiglione, Kenneth Ransom
Photo by Gary Marsh
Jackie (Austin Castiglione) has been recently released from prison on parole. He’s under the supervision of Ralph D. (Kenneth Ransom), an Alcoholics Anonymous type for whom Jackie has a great deal of respect.
Jackie has found a humble job as a porter, news he proudly relates to his girlfriend Veronica (Rhoda Lopez). Astonishingly foul-mouthed, Veronica produces a stream of gutter language that would silence a sea-going parrot. She is also a coke addict living in a squalid bed-sitter.
As the play unfolds, it becomes increasingly clear that Jackie is a far more decent person than his so-called sponsor, even though Jackie is seemingly blind to Ralph D.’s ugliness of character. The plot is further complicated by Victoria, Ralph D’s wife (Alison van Reeken), who has a more than passing interest in Jackie.
He might be rough, uncouth, violent, an unattractive human being – but Jackie has a sense of fairness and honour (however rudimentary) which are largely lacking in his appalling sponsor.
Playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis homes in unerringly on the disparity of personality between the two men. It is this which makes the play a fascinating and absorbing theatre experience. Castigione plays Jackie with a very real understanding of his flawed character. And Ransom brings an effective sleaziness to his characterisation of Ralph D.
Fayssal Bazzi plays Julio, Jackie’s cousin, a seemingly mild man who nonetheless has a tendency towards violence.
In a setting strongly rooted in grim realism, the fight scene between Jackie and Ralph D seemed somewhat contrived and awkward.
Rhoda Lopez, Austin Castiglione
Photo by Gary Marsh
Brian Woltjen has designed a first-rate set, a series of interiors mounted on a circular, revolving base. In its mood establishment, Woltjen’s set adds materially to the overall impact of the production as did Trent Suidgeest’s imaginative lighting design.
Motherf**ker is presented without interval – and it hasn’t a dull moment. If you like gritty, abrasive, expletive-filled and violently confrontational theatre, then this is the play for you – but, as mentioned earlier, don’t bring great-aunt Mabel. She’s likely to be so offended, she might well clamber on stage and use her umbrella to beat the bejesus out of the characters for bad language and worse morals.