DBH and I are in Chicago for several weeks. I’m doing the Hancock Hustle with my family on the 24th of Feb. Coming in early gives me a chance to practice in our 24 story building. I’ve climbed the equivalent of the Hancock twice this week – the first time a breeze, the second a real test of character. And in between we did two theater matinees, with the other gray hairs. Our theater pair was not the sort you would associate with matinee goers: The Motherf**cker with the Hat (TMWH) and Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo (BTBZ).
TMWH was staged at Steppenwolf. Not an ensemble piece, but directed by Steppenwolf ensemble member Anna Shapiro, who directed August: Osage County on Broadway and in London. BTBZ was at Lookingglass, lately one of our favorite Chicago venues and only six blocks from home in the old Water Tower.
If they were competing plays, BTBZ wins hands down. Compelling drama about the war in Iraq from the pov of good and evil Iraqis, crazed Marines and dead zoo animals. My only hesitation about awarding further kudos to the play is that the tiger cursed. He cursed man, god, zoos, his appetite – using human swear words. Tigers would not stoop so low. It demeaned the character. Most people swear because they cannot formulate more appropriate words to express their frustration. A tiger would be more thoughtful and deliberate.
TMWH is about low-life, recovering and non-recovering addicts. Yes, it’s full of foul language, but consider the source. These characters are frustrated all the time. And in the morass of addiction and the fragility of recovery, they sling foul language like laser lights – lots of display, but no one hears or reacts to the hurt. It’s just the way they talk. Sad. The play was well acted (remember its Steppenwolf, so it’s scream theater), but not really memorable. Just sad.