The legendary Chris Rock is making his Broadway debut in The Motherf**ker With the Hat, which opens Monday, April 11, at the Schoenfeld Theatre. The dark comedy is written by Stephen Adly Guirgis and tells a wild yet sophisticated story of addiction. Directed by Tony-winner Anna D. Shapiro, the play focuses on Jackie (Bobby Cannavale), an ex-con who is trying to stay drug-free. He’s been in a tumultuous relationship with his girlfriend (Elizabeth Rodriguez) since the eighth grade. Jackie insists she is cheating after he finds a hat in her apartment that doesn’t belong to him. He becomes obsessed with “the motherf**ker with the hat.”
Chris Rock has a supporting role as Jackie’s sponsor and sketchy friend. Annabella Sciorra, who is best known for playing opposite Wesley Snipes in Jungle Fever, makes her Broadway debut as Rock’s wife.
While Chris Rock is the headliner on the playbill, this isn’t a play about Rock. The witty and verbally raunchy production focuses on Jackie and his girlfriend, played well by Cannavale and Rodriguez. The smart dialogue is heavy at times, but these two add enough soul that their characters bounce off the stage. Flawless comedic timing mixes with emotional sensibility to bring out memorable performances. Cannavale and Rodriguez gave it all they got. Yes, Rock is the draw, but once you are in your seat, the overall jourmey is worth the ride.
Considering there is profanity in the title, the audience gets tons of it in each scene, but it’s never gratuitous—these are characters struggling with addiction, so they go with their first emotion.
It’s no secret that Chris Rock hasn’t received the most favorable of reviews when it comes to acting. However, this is a man who knows the stage and grew up coaxing the toughest of crowds as a stand-up comedian in New York City. That said, Rock’s performance shines better than any film role. He seems more at home, and the Brooklyn native shows he has some acting chops. As he recently said to David Letterman, Broadway is “real acting.”
The Motherf**ker With the Hat exceeds expectations. It’s a theatrical experience that is refreshing next to the typical, over-the-top glam of Broadway.