The San Francisco Playhouse has a long history with the work of New York playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis, especially considering that the company's only 10 years old. It's already staged his plays Our Lady of 121st Street, Jesus Hopped the 'A' Train, and Den of Thieves. So the Playhouse is a natural home for the West Coast premiere of Guirgis' dark comedy The MF with the Hat, which premiered on Broadway in 2011 starring Bobby Cannavale and Chris Rock. The play was also in the news later that same year, when Guirgis objected vociferously and publicly to white actors being cast in the Puerto Rican roles in its first regional production, at TheaterWorks in Hartford, Connecticut (not to be confused with our own TheatreWorks in Palo Alto).
The title doesn't actually use "MF" but rather a popular insult implying incest, one that I've tried to be mindful to substitute with "fluffernutter" in everyday conversation. And indeed, there's a veritable fluffload of profanity in the show. That's only appropriate, because it's about a former small-time drug dealer who's now clean, on parole, and jubilant about having just got a job until he notices an unfamiliar hat in his girlfriend's bedroom and a suspicious scent on the sheets. That's when he flips the heck out and resolves to track down the titular gentleman.
The West Coast premiere is presented in association with Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, the previous occupant of SF Playhouse's new space. Currently homeless, LHT is offering a nomadic subscription season made up entirely of other companies' productions at the Playhouse, American Conservatory Theater, and Marin Theatre Company.
Playhouse artistic director Bill English gives the play a brisk, high-octane staging. English also designed a knockout set that takes full advantage of the spaciousness of the new stage. LHT had already reduced the former Post Street Theatre's seating from 729 to 400, and the Playhouse further reduced it to an intimate 250 seats by moving the stage forward, which lends the set a remarkable sense of depth.