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Entertainment & Arts

Review: Stephen Adly Guirgis and that play with the unprintable title are (expletive) back

Veronica (Gabrielle Walsh) faces the skepticism of boyfriend Jackie (Jeremy Luke) in Theatre 68’s production of “The Mother... With the Hat.”
Veronica (Gabrielle Walsh) faces the skepticism of boyfriend Jackie (Jeremy Luke) in Theatre 68’s production of “The Mother... With the Hat.”
(Theatre 68)

It’s probably one of the funniest shows you can see in L.A. right now. And one of the most heart-wrenching.

The Stephen Adly Guirgis play whose expletive-loaded title often gets ellipse-ied as “The Mother... With the Hat” is running at Theatre 68 with a strong cast directed by Salvatore Inzerillo.

Jeremy Luke plays Jackie, a recovering addict who’s trying to figure out if girlfriend Veronica (Gabrielle Walsh) is cheating on him — and if so, with whom — based on a hat that he finds in their apartment. Along the way Jackie confides in his sponsor, Ralph (Paul Tully), Ralph’s wife Victoria (Gisla Stringer), and his cousin Julio (Daniel V. Graulau).

Guirgis won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for “Between Riverside and Crazy,” the tale of a father’s redemption that recently received a soulful revival at L.A.'s Fountain Theatre. The writing here in “The Mother... With the Hat” explores addiction thoughtfully and carefully while pushing boundaries to elicit laughs.

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The text — with long monologues and wavering emotions — asks a lot of the actors. The ensemble runs with it, each member demonstrating a firm grasp on character. Luke in particular shines, delivering each block of speedy dialogue in one compelling breath and conveying Jackie’s emotions with a keen physicality, connecting us to the emotional core of the story.

The production falters only in the blocking, which suffers from a set that could have been streamlined given the small stage. A tall table, barely used, blocks a couch where actors spend a significant chunk of time, a problem for a production in which so much is conveyed through facial expressions. Regardless, “The Mother... With the Hat” is compelling and poignant, worth checking out as it heads into its final weekend.

From left: Paul Tully, Daniel V. Graulau, Jeremy Luke and Gisla Stringer in Theatre 68’s “The Mother... With the Hat.”
From left: Paul Tully, Daniel V. Graulau, Jeremy Luke and Gisla Stringer in Theatre 68’s “The Mother... With the Hat.”
(Theatre 68)

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'The Mother... With the Hat'
Where: Theatre 68, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood

When: 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, through Dec. 14, plus select Sundays (check with theater for schedule)

Tickets: $25

Info: theatre68.com

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