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The Motherfucker with the Hat – The New Theatre, Dublin

Writer: Stephen Adly Guirgis

Director: Aoife Spillane-Hinks

Reviewer: Ciarán Leinster

It is rare for a black comedy to be both brilliantly dark and funny in equal doses, but then a talent such as Stephen Adly Guirgis’ is probably even rarer. His latest play, which had its European debut in the intimate, and packed, New Theatre is as brilliantly well-written as his most famous plays, such as Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train and Our Lady of 121st Street, but to focus solely on the playwright is to do the actors a massive disservice.

Andrew Lynch excels in the lead rôle as Jackie, the recovering alcoholic and ex-con who strives to get his life back on track, but suspects his girlfriend, Veronica, of cheating on him. It transpires that Veronica is in fact sleeping with Jackie’s sponsor, Ralph, who is played by the show-stealing Peter Gaynor. Ralph is possibly the most interesting character, the seemingly redeemed addict who tries to talk Jackie through his problems, using prayer and healthy food to overcome his addictions. But Ralph is in fact as susceptible to temptation as the rest of the characters, justifying his affair with Veronica by exclaiming, “I’m just a guy who hasn’t gotten high or had a drink in 15 years”.

The themes are nothing new for Guirgis, with addiction, violence, crime, infidelity and prostitution foremost, and the tragic self-destruction of the characters is searingly effective alongside the consistent humour. Ralph and his wife, Victoria, are wonderful satires of the unhappily married sitcom couple, and Rex Ryan as Julio, Jackie’s fitness freak cousin, dominates the stage with his energy. Individual lines, like Jackie’s railing against the “unidentified fuckin’ hat sittin’ on my chair” bring howls of laughter, but it is never at the expense of these flawed, pitiful people, who constantly grasp at redemption, but let it slip from their grasp.

By all rights this praise should be followed by a criticism, but it is almost impossible to find one. The set changes from middle-class apartment to drug den and back with ease, largely due to the force of the acting, and the inter-scene music is terrific. This is as close to flawless as theatre gets, and is sure to play to a packed house throughout its three-week run.

Photo courtesy of Orion Productions. Runs until December 20th.

Writer: Stephen Adly Guirgis Director: Aoife Spillane-Hinks Reviewer: Ciarán Leinster It is rare for a black comedy to be both brilliantly dark and funny in equal doses, but then a talent such as Stephen Adly Guirgis’ is probably even rarer. His latest play, which had its European debut in the intimate, and packed, New Theatre is as brilliantly well-written as his most famous plays, such as Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train and Our Lady of 121st Street, but to focus solely on the playwright is to do the actors a massive disservice. Andrew Lynch excels in the lead rôle as…

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The Ireland team is under the editorship of Ciara Murphy. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.