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Profane play is more tender than its title

Ed Chavez, left, is Jackie and Efrain Villa is Julio in the play “The Motherf----- With the Hat” at the Vortex Theatre. (Courtesy of alan mitchell photography)
Ed Chavez, left, is Jackie and Efrain Villa is Julio in the play “The Motherf----- With the Hat” at the Vortex Theatre. (Courtesy of alan mitchell photography)
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Despite its in-your-face title and raw language, “The Motherf—– With the Hat,” is tender and sincere.

Director Leslee Richards, who has many directing credits, including the recent the Adobe Theater production of “Pride and Prejudice,” says the two plays have more in common than one may think at first glance.

“They are more alike than different,” she says. In both plays the characters “think they know things and they don’t. They are both about people trying to make the right choices in life, trying to find love and someone to care for.”

If you go
WHAT: “The Motherf—– With the Hat”
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, March 22-April 14
WHERE: The Vortex Theatre, 2004 1/2 E. Central
HOW MUCH: General admission, $18. Available seats five minutes before showtime, $10 students. Pay what you wish 2 p.m. April 7. Reservations and online tickets www.vortexabq.org or call 247-8600. Foul language and adult situations

About her current play, she says, “The play is a challenging, well-written and very funny examination of the choices we make about love. In many ways it is a coming-of-age story. The play is raw, yet deeply familiar and human.”

The Tony-nominated play, which debuted in 2011, is set in a working-class Puerto Rican neighborhood in New York City. Life is turning around for Jackie, a recovering alcoholic, and his girlfriend, Veronica, until Jackie discovers another man’s hat in their apartment.

The discovery sets him on a flawed quest for vengeance, according to a Vortex news release.

“These people are just like us. They are passionate about each other. It becomes explosive in lots of ways,” Richards explains.

Ed Chavez plays the main character, Jackie, but the rest of the actors have similarly important roles. “It’s an ensemble piece. They are all connected. Some by blood, some by marriage and some by love. It’s been a gas to direct.”

Chavez says he likes Jackie because he’s complex: “He’s very driven, arrogant, smart and complex. I think audiences will alternately love and hate him. He’s got a very tough exterior, but there’s a lot more to him than that.”

He says the long one-act play grabbed him from the first lines: “It’s gritty and real.”

Eliot Stenzel, who plays Ralph D., the antagonist to Jackie, says the role is a challenge: “Ralph D.’s nature, which seems enlightened on the surface, is coarse and cynical at the core. It is a challenge to play this duality.”

Cousin Julio, played by Efrain Villa, has inner demons.

Villa says that Julio keeps that side of his personality in check to move forward in life: “At times, his cheerful, loyal and trustworthy nature seems at odds with his, occasional, violent tendencies.

“We all have sides of ourselves that we rarely reveal to others, or even to ourselves,” Villa says. “This play does a good job of exploring those shadowy areas where we sometimes hide the parts of ourselves that no one gets to see.”

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