Cygnet’s excellent production of the Show We Cannot Fully Name, The Motherf--er With the Hat, must close this Sunday, June 22.
The title’s both a warning (there will be untoward language) and an assertion: like Stephen Adly Guirgis’ other efforts, this play won’t just play around. It will be raw, throaty, and visceral. And it takes place on one of today’s major battlefields: Recovery Hill, where myriad Americans fight to break free, one step at a time, from addiction.
Jackie’s out of prison. Gonna change his ways. He used to deal drugs. His girlfriend, Veronica, still snorts coke. His counsellor, Ralph D., recites 12-step gospel, but isn’t what he seems (none of them are, including Julio, who turns a stereotype on its tail). Ralph’s wife, Victoria, has “had it up to here with his helium.”
If it weren’t for the tell-tale hat, discovered in Veronica’s bedroom, none of what follows may have happened – or, more likely, would have taken much longer to come about. The red lid becomes the still point around which large emotions swirl and collide.
Believe it or not, Motherf--er’s a very funny comedy. Also hard to believe, given the subject matter, it’s not judgmental, and its underlying theme has numerous applications: to climb Recovery Hill, support programs can only take you so far. The last leg is up to you.
If it weren’t for Al Germani, artistic director of Lynx Performance Theatre, Guirgis may not have had his earlier plays produced in San Diego, among them Jesus Hopped the A-Train. Other works have enjoyed excellent productions: The Little Flower of East Orange (at Ion), and Cygnet’s Hat.
Guirguis — pronounced GEAR-giss — is co-artistic director of New York’s LABrynth Theatre. The late Philip Seymour Hoffman, also a member of the company, was his director of choice.
In an interview, Guirguis said Motherf--er began as a sketch. He liked what he saw and “wrote for about 24 hours straight. Everyone seemed to like it, so I just continued writing.”
The play, he says, “is about growing up, accepting responsibility. St. Paul said, ‘When I became a man, I put away my childish things.’ All my plays are meditations about trying to put away my childish things.”
“There are some things it seems like everybody has already figured out that I’m still banging my head against the wall about. The good thing is that life is…a work in progress.” For a playwright, “one way to make a positive out of a negative is that you can put it into your work.”