“The Motherf–ker With the Hat” presented by Washington Ensemble Theatre

It all revolves around a badly located hat amidst some hypersexual drug addicts, alcoholics, and even an AA sponsor. None of these marginal people have much control of their emotions or ability to restrain their desires. Playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis has given us a hilarious script and masterfully inserted within it an exploration of morality and values. What we have here is an uproarious romp that addresses some serious considerations. It’s about the boundaries of friendship, what we owe one another, what we demand of ourselves, and how we deal with our smashed hopes.

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Erwin Galán as Jackie and Anna Lamadrid as Veronica. Photos by Chris Bennion

Nominated for numerous awards when it was first produced in New York in 2011, this Seattle incarnation is defined by fine acting and clever staging. Director Valerie Curtis-Newton has drawn from the riches of The Hansberry Project and eSe Teatro as well as Washington Ensemble Theatre in this partnership production.

It begins in the apartment of the mercurial druggie Veronica (Anna Lamadrid) who is engaged in a long phone conversation with her addict mother. In comes boyfriend Jackie (marvelously played by Erwin Galán), straight out of prison. He’s loaded with presents and good news for the girl he left behind, and he’s more than ready to consummate his homecoming . . . until he notices a man’s hat on the table. This stranger’s hat changes the nature of his homecoming. Volatile people don’t settle disputes with rational conversations.

After that confrontation, Jackie pays a visit to his AA “sponsor,” Ralph D., the health-food aficionado whose body is clearly purer than his morality. Ralph is a firm believer in the fact that happiness is ignoring what stinks. Unfortunately there’s a lot that smells kind of funny here, and Jackie has a very perceptive sense of smell.

Jackie’s next step in his search for renewal is a visit to Cousin Julio. As I have said, the acting in this wild production is impeccable, but, of all the characters, it’s Cousin Julio played by Moises Castro who most delighted me. Every one of his many mannerisms is so right. Every gesture, every facial expression adds richness to the character.

The funny yet thought-provoking action takes place on Pete Rush’s versatile set that allows characters to move back and forth from apartment to apartment and be viewed from many angles.

For those who love good but edgy theatre, this production will be a treat.

Through Feb. 1 at 12th Ave. Arts, 1620 12th Ave., Seattle, (washingtonensemble.org).

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