EMAV Review: Lost "Hat" at LVLT still offers solid performances



★★★½☆'s - Satisfying+

LVLT’s Fischer Black Box presents another play whose title can’t be printed in family newspapers or announced vocally in news media as written. The language of the script is such that only a premium cable channel could tackle it without censorship. Stephen Adly Guirgis’ “The Motherfucker With the Hat” is a comedy, and the performance started out in high velocity.

Director Brandon Alan McClenahan assembled a talented cast. As with all comedy, there’s still a touch of high-stakes crisis, but this (almost) two-and-a-half-hour show lost the comedic, bogged down, and became a full-on drama.

It happened in an Act One scene between D.J. Hale (Jackie) and Gigi Guizado (Victoria). Guizado, who, at this point, leads the scene in full-out antagonist mode, hiccupped or something in the transition when she bursts into laughter and tells Jackie, “Ralph always wanted a dog.” As the production progressed, Rene F. Cobar, as Cousin Julio, and Ronn L. Williams, as Ralph D, found moments in delivery to point the way back to comedy, but it failed to catch and stick.

Don’t misunderstand, for the hour prior to that Guizado delivered a solid performance. Her Veronica is the quintessential woman who has figured out she screwed up when she married Ralph. She’s gruff and dour, and still manages to portray the underlying love.

Amanda Guardado plays Veronica, Jackie’s girlfriend since eighth grade, and opens the show with a sense of urgency, and body language that matches the scene. Her antics are a joy to watch. When she fights with Jackie, she brings it full force.

In both the physical and vocal, with the toss of the head to the graceful pointing of a foot, Cobar is all Julio, all the time. He submerses himself completely into the character, and his timing brought an inkling of a return to comedy in Act Two.

Williams, always a steady performer, does a nice job with Ralph D. He moves with authority as he cajoles Jackie into staying on the straight and narrow of sobriety. There’s something about his natural presence on stage which draws you in.

D.J. Hale moves through the scenes as if he owns them. The underlying mental fight is always apparent; his struggle to contain his anger, swallow his pride, and admit what’s happened lies on his shoulders comes across well.

The production values are top-notch. It’s especially good to see the Black Box utilized in a new configuration, rather than the standard proscenium-style of the recent past. Yale Yeandel’s brick-walled set envelopes the room; even the floor has been painted to resemble wooden planks. The ease with which we move from location to location helps hold the piece together. And, that McClenahan puts his actors onstage with business in the initial, essential area while the rest of the set is changed is brilliant because it keeps the play moving.

The job of a theatre critic is to review only what they see, when they see it. But, I’m going to crawl out on a spindly limb here. This is a talented bunch of actors, led by a capable director. I’d be willing to bet that subsequent performances will hit the mark.

When: 8 p.m. Thursday - Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday through November 19

Where: Las Vegas Little Theatre, 3920 Schiff drive

Tickets: $10 - $15 (702-362-7996; www.lvlt.org)

Grade: ***-1/2 (Delicious)

Producer: Las Vegas Little Theatre; Director: Brendan Alan McClenahan; Set Design: Yale Yeandel; Lighting Design: Kendra Harris, Raphael Daniels; Sound Design: Sandy Stein; Stage Manager: Stephanie McCue

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