We aren’t always who we think we are

By Sean Sullivan

We all experience a moment at some point in our lives where how we’ve acted doesn’t line up with who we believe we are. It’s part of being human. We make mistakes, we contradict ourselves, we’re hypocritical. Ninety-nine per cent of the time when these events occur, we don’t even recognize that it happened. Othertimes it can be deeply unsettling.

Nothing about who we are is ever simple.

The Motherfucker with the Hat, the award-winning comedy by Stephen Adly Guirgis being put on by Alberta Theatre Projects until Nov. 2, is all about this dichotomy and puts it to hilarious use pitting the play’s characters against one another — and more importantly, against themselves.

The story revolves around Jackie, who is out on parole, attending Alcoholics Anonymous and getting reacquainted with his long-time girlfriend, so to speak. He finds a hat at his girlfriend’s apartment, is convinced she is cheating on him and becomes obsessed with discovering the owner. Jackie spends the rest of the play dealing with the man he thinks he should be and the kind of man he actually is.

Most of the play’s humour is produced by the juxtaposition between who the characters believe they are and who they actually are.

At one moment in the play Jackie, is told by his cousin Julio, “The space between who you think you are and who you actually are is a pretty embarrassingly wide gap.”

Guirgis’s play manages to finely balance the two sides of the coin for each character. The cast at ATP — Haysam Kadri as Jackie, Carmen Aguirre as Veronica, Beau Dixon as Ralph D., Francisco Trujillo as Cousin Julio and Melanee Murray as Victoria — deftly flip back and forth between the dual aspects of the characters, especially Dixon as Jackie’s Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor Ralph, who manages to guide and advise Jackie in one breath and insult him in the next. Dixon moves from one side of the character to another in a swift staccato tempo, each note funnier than the next as he both angers and confuses Jackie.

None of the characters are who they at first seem to be. Cousin Julio attempts to calm his cousin in one scene and eggs him on in the next. Victoria is short tempered around her husband, Ralph, and patient with him next time we see her. Veronica is in love with Jackie before deciding she wants nothing to do with him and then loving him once again.
And as much as the characters may irritate us at times, the inherent contradiction in each of them makes them fascinating.

ATP’s production of The Motherfucker with the Hat is thoroughly entertaining start to finish. Just be forewarned, naked bike-riding may occur during the play.

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