Posts Tagged ‘stephen adly guirgis’

The Motherf**ker with the Hat
by Stephen Adly Guirgis
Directed by Carl Overly, Jr.
R-S Theatrics
January 26, 2019

Jesse Muñoz, Adam Flores, Aaron Dodd
Photo by Jill Lindberg
R-S Theatrics

The latest production from R-S Theatrics has an eye-catching title, but there’s a lot more to it than that. The Motherf**ker with the Hat is technically a comedy, but there’s a degree of sadness, and even tragedy there as well. It’s a character study, looking at complex people and situations, and R-S has assembled a strong local cast for this memorable St. Louis premiere.

The story is intense and challenging, but with a lot of comic dialogue and surprising situations, as well as richly defined characters. Jackie (Adam Flores) has recently been released from prison after serving time on drug charges, and he’s trying to get his life back together, staying sober with the help of a 12-step group. He’s just gotten a new job, and he’s hoping to celebrate with his girlfriend, Veronica (Sofia Lidia), but soon he discovers a hat in her apartment that doesn’t belong to him, making Jackie suspicious that Veronica may be cheating on him. He takes refuge at the house of his sponsor, Ralph D (Aaron Dodd) and his wife Victoria (Talessa Caturah), who are now in the “nutritional beverage” business. He also enlists the help of his reluctant Cousin Julio (Jesse Muñoz) in one of his schemes to deal with the hat situation. That’s about all I can say in terms of plot without spoiling too much, because this story definitely has its twists. Just know that things aren’t always as they seem, and Jackie learns that some people are not as trustworthy as they seem, while others might have more complex motives. Essentially, it’s a character study, also taking a look at the challenges facing someone in Jackie’s situation, as well as Veronica’s, and how easy it is for some people to take advantage of people in vulnerable situations. It’s a gritty, intense play highlighted by sharp dialogue, strong language, and raw interpersonal interactions.

The characters here are multi-faceted, as are the impressive performances from the cast. As Jackie, Flores manages to be likable, intense, impulsive, and vulnerable at the same time,. Dodd as the self-centred, bold-talking Ralph is also excellent, portraying a character who is more than he may initially seem. Lidia, as the conflicted, addicted Veronica, gives a convincing portrayal of a woman who’s caught in several difficult situations. Caturah, as the exasperated Victoria, is also impressive, as is Muñoz as probably the kindest character in the show, the questioning but supportive Cousin Julio. The character interactions are highly charged much of the time, and they are well portrayed here by the cast and through director Carl Overly, Jr.’s fast-paced staging.

The .Zack can be a difficult performance venue, with its high stage, odd sight lines and giant pillars, but this production uses the space well, opening up the staging so the performance space includes the area in front of the stage in addition to the stage itself. Taylor Gruenloh’s set design reflects the grittiness of the piece, with its effective representations of Veronica’s small apartment the versatile floor area that converts from Ralph’s place to Cousin Julio’s place with a few quick furniture changes. The costumes by Christina Rios suit the characters well, and there’s also evocative use of lighting by Todd Schaefer and impressive sound work from Mark Kelley.

R-S Theatrics is known for its memorable, challenging, St. Louis premiere productions, and its latest show is another example of this tradition. The Motherf**ker with the Hat is a crass, sharply characterized, sometimes brutally intense show that portrays its characters with their flaws on clear display. The characters aren’t always easy to like, but they’re always interesting. It may seem a little too bleak for some, especially for a comedy, but at R-S, it’s especially well staged, and it’s worth checking out.

R-S Theatrics is presenting The Motherf**ker with the Hat at the .Zack until February 10, 2019

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The Last Days of Judas Iscariot
by Stephen Adly Guirgis
Directed by Adam Flores
Mustard Seed Theatre
October 14, 2018

Eric Dean White, Chris Ware, Courtney Bailey Parker, Carl Overly, Jr.
Photo by Ann K. Photography
Mustard Seed Theatre

Mustard Seed Theatre is opening their 2018-2019 season with a play that’s somewhat difficult to categorize. The basic premise is simple enough to describe, but how it plays out is much more complicated than that. It’s certainly memorable, though, with strong performances and excellent production values, and enough though-provoking ideas to prompt many a conversation, contemplation, or academic essay.

So, the set-up is fairly simple, and the setting metaphysical. It’s described as a place called “Hope”, located in Downtown Purgatory, between heaven and hell. There’s a courtroom here, presided by a gruff Judge (Chandler Spradling) who is trying to get through the various cases as quickly as possible. The latest defense attorney, Fabiana Aziza Cunningham (Courtney Bailey Parker) is persistent, however, insisting on a hearing for her client, the infamous Judas Iscariot (Chris Ware), who sits sullenly waiting for his fate to be pronounced. The prosecuting attorney, Yusef El-Fayoumy (Carl Overly, Jr.) is zealous if somewhat unorganized, and Cunningham remains determined throughout the ensuing trial in which Judas’s betrayal of Jesus Christ (Jesse Muñoz) is recounted in detail, including testimonies from Judas’s mother, Henriette (Carmen Garcia), along with various biblical figures like St. Peter (FeliceSkye), St. Matthew, Mary Magdalene and Caiphas (all three played by Ariella Rovinsky), as well as more recent historical figures like Mother Teresa (Rachel Tibbetts) and Sigmund Freud (also FeliceSkye), and Satan himself (Eric Dean White).

The format is difficult to follow at times, as it jumps around in time and space and features a mixture of perspectives. The biblical story is embellished to fill out Judas’s life story as well as provide context for the historical and fictional characters represented here. It’s not always clear where the story is going either, especially since it takes a rather sharp turn near the end on the way to a conclusion that reminds me in a way of C. S. Lewis, although a broad range of philosophies and approaches is mentioned here as well. The various situations are treated with a sometimes jarring mixture of comedy and drama, and some specific characters–especially Satan–veering wildly in tone and approach. It’s a thoughtful show, turning over and examining ideas of compassion, mercy, justice, hypocrisy, the concepts of heaven and hell, and more.

The performances are a key element of this production, with particularly dynamic turns from Parker as the earnestly determined Cunningham and Overly as the frenetic but also determined El-Fayoumy, as well as White as a Satan who is at turns smarmy, hucksterish, and deadly serious. Ware is a strong presence as the dejected, mostly silent Judas, and Muñoz is excellent in a small but memorable role as Jesus. It’s a large cast, with most of the other players playing more than one role, to excellent effect, with standouts including Tibbetts as a somewhat scatterbrained Mother Teresa, Rae Davis as the tough-talking St. Monica, Garcia as both Judas’s mother and a stubborn Pontius Pilate, and Rovinsky in a variety of roles. Graham Emmons also has a memorable moment near the end as a juror named Butch Honeywell. It’s a strong ensemble all around, with lots of energy, conveying the comic and dramatic moments with clarity.

Visually, this show is simply striking, with a scenic design by Dunsi Dai that conveys the otherworldly setting well–an orangey-red courtroom setup that serves as a backdrop for the trial and for various other locations as needed. The lighting by Michael Sullivan is also strong, along with Zoe Sullivan’s sound, contributing to the metaphysical atmosphere of the play. The costumes by Andrea Robb also suit the characters well, putting a more modern twist to the stylings of characters from various time periods and backgrounds.

This isn’t an easy play. It requires a lot of thought, and sometimes seems to present contradictory concepts of the world and various perspectives. It’s a vividly characterized story that’s part philosophical treatise, part morality play, part deconstruction, with excellent performances and first-rate production values. It’s a provocative start to a new season for Mustard Seed.

Jesse Muñoz, Chris Ware
Photo by Ann K. Photography
Mustard Seed Theatre

Mustard Seed Theatre is presenting The Last Days of Judas Iscariot at Fontbonne University until October 28, 2018

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