A title like The Motherfucker With The Hat could fill up a theater solely on intrigue. There’s a mystery and vulgarity built right in. But despite a showy name, the show doesn’t aim to shock us.
It just wants to relate to us, and our love of certain four-letter words.
TMWTH is a play about a variety of human emotions and demons: addiction, jealousy, loyalty, love. People who can’t stop wanting and needing everything and doing anything to get it.
Former drug dealer Jackie finishes up his jail stint (for drug dealing) and returns home to his cocaine-loving girlfriend, Veronica. He discovers a hat that doesn’t belong to him in her home (hence the title) and hastily goes to his sponsor, Ralph D., for guidance on how to deal with its unknown owner. Lives weave together, people get angry, and characters use a lot of R-rated words. The original production starred Chris Rock, in his Broadway debut, as Ralph.
“It’s a play for grown-ups, about grown-ups, dealing with issues they should’ve dealt with a long time ago,”
says Melinda Lopez, who plays Victoria, Ralph’s street-savvy New Yorker wife who he needs to work some things out with. “The title makes that clear. These grown-ups are behaving badly.”
While the characters’ drama is heightened compared to our own experiences, the show’s language keeps it steeped in our own realities. Besides, who hasn’t wanted to go ballistic over a hat once or twice?
Lopez says the playwright, Stephen Adly Guirgis, wrote the characters to sound like natives of the Bronx, the show’s setting. He smashes poetry and coarse language together, with a few “likes” and “ums” thrown in, to mimic how people actually talk, something Lopez and the other actors aim to hit perfectly. Lopez compares the dialogue to eavesdropping on your crazy neighbors. “I wish I could quote it, but it’s not printable … The raw language takes on such an art form that it is poetry.
You’ve never heard such beautiful four-letter words in your life,” she adds.
The title almost takes away from the play’s realistic and romantic tone. It’s not designed to surprise you with its vulgarity—rather, it quietly reminds you of the ordinary nature of human pain, and the emotions and words we all say when experiencing it.
“It’s about [the characters] trying to find a way to live with their demons and be happy, which we all can relate to. We don’t have as strange addictions as they have, but we are still battling our habits and the things we do to sabotage ourselves.”
The Boston production will be Lopez’s return to the stage following a four-year hiatus. After taking time off to be with her family and work on her own shows–including an upcoming project called Being Cuba–she simply couldn’t turn down the role.
“I read the script and said, ‘There’s no way I’m not doing this.’ Thankfully I got it.”
Guirgis’ compassion and dedication to his characters has led Lopez back into the acting world. It’s even given her a new technique she’ll bring when directing her own material: trusting the actors more.
As for her time in front of the audience, she’s just happy to be along for the ride. “You’ll laugh, your mouth will hang open. You’ll ask ‘Did they just say that?’ And then you’ll cry.”
“Perfect night of theater.”
THE MOTHERFUCKER WITH THE HAT