Leave the Gun, Take the Empanada

It’s an old story: Boy and girl fall in love, boy sleeps around, girl sleeps around, boy drinks, girl drinks, the pair attempts reconciliation, but everyone’s just too messed up to make it work. Whether in literature or in life, this isn’t new.

But urgency and earnest emotion are brought to the tale by the cast of The Motherfucker with the Hat at Teatro Paraguas, up through April 30 and under the direction of Rick Vargas. Set in New York City, the story follows Jackie (Matthew Montoya) and his girlfriend Veronica (Madeleine Robb) as Jackie tries to stay sober while Veronica is snorting coke within the first 90 seconds of the show. Ralph (Noah G Simpson), Jackie's faux-enlightened-but-actually-just-an- asshole AA sponsor, and his wife Victoria (Eibhlin Brennan) orbit Jackie and Veronica in their own dysfunctional binary. Jackie's cousin Julio (Pablo Adrián Ángeles Guaderrama), frying up empanadas and offering objective insight, is alternately comic relief and a tender touchstone for the profanity-laden dialogue spat between the other four.

As the show opens, Jackie suspects Veronica is cheating on him with the titular figure, whom we know only by a fedora left in the couple's dining room. He smells the sheets. He's convinced. Once accused, Veronica comes out swinging—think the high-speed witticisms of Gilmore Girls but actually believable, peppered with epithets and threats that only a hard-ass raised in "Puerto Rican Transylvania" could conjure. Robb is flawless as Veronica, all surliness and don't-fuck-with-me, a formidable figure in huge hoop earrings and a lace negligee, fighting fire with fire.

Soon, we learn more about the infidelities of everyone (no, everyone). If you picked one deal-breaker when it came to poor choices and bad behavior, there wouldn't be a single deal left. After prayer, accusations, a hidden gun, endless confessions and at least one fistfight comes an eventual yearning for redemption—and, depending on the viewer's capacity for forgiveness, some characters may get it. But it's still up for debate.

On opening night, the cast clearly wasn't ready for the audience to laugh (yes, despite heavy subject matter—or perhaps because of it—there are many laugh-out-loud moments). It was a little refreshing to watch as they accidentally jumped laughter with more lines, earnestly unprepared for people to love them.

The placing of the play is solid. Despite being from Austin and Santa Fe, respectively, Robb and Montoya in particular affect spot-on NYC accents (Robb is a little more Bronx, Montoya perhaps more Staten Island). Veronica sports a T-shirt from Friendly's, a regional ice cream shop, and a reference to a weird catcall from a bodega is all too right. The play is relatively new—it debuted on Broadway in 2011—and feels fresh and relevant in the hands of these actors.

Disclosure: Noah G Simpson is an advertising account executive at SFR.

The Motherfucker with the Hat
7:30 pm Thursdays-Saturdays, April 20-29;
2 pm Sundays, April 23 and 30. $10-$20.
Teatro Paraguas,
3205 Calle Marie,

Scarlet Billows Start to Spread

When SFR tried to get in touch with Santa Fe University of Art and Design actors to talk about its upcoming production of Bertolt Brecht's dark Victorian musical, The Threepenny Opera, no students returned multiple inquiries. Not hugely surprising, given recent events.

But this writer was on deadline, dammit. At nearly 10 pm on a Thursday night, SFUAD's Garson Theatre was still aglow, the doors unlocked. In the large auditorium, dozens of students gathered for rehearsal. No one cared about the intruder sitting quietly in the back of the house with a notepad.

A soaring, minimalist set dwarfed the students, partially in costume, corsets over T-shirts and top hats paired with track pants. Occasionally someone called for line. The onstage pit orchestra, for now, was just a keyboard. It was already clear, though, that this is going to be a good one.

Koppany Pusztai, a junior at the university, plays Macheath, the slimy, handsome, amoral, charming, notorious, clever criminal who cheats everyone (and both woos and cheats women). Pusztai, a BFA candidate in acting with no formal musical training, has a singing voice like butter. A duet between Polly Peachum and Lucy Brown, both of whom claim to be married to Macheath, is effortlessly funny. Jack, the burly police commissioner, has absolutely radiant energy onstage. The ensemble dancers' mechanical dance moves complement the minor-heavy score. And this was all evident in just 20 minutes of a rehearsal.

We know a little more about Pusztai than the others because he did manage to get in touch late at night after the rehearsal. He praised director Kenneth McLaughlin, saying the cast and director together made the decision to eschew Cockney accents in favor of characterization that came out without the crutch of tradition. He feels Brecht would be "cheering in his grave" at this production. "The world is in such a shitty place," he says. "Without trying to press any agenda, just look at the simplest forms of greed and power and poverty. This show will always be relevant. If the audience is preparing to be entertained and entertained only, they're seeing the wrong show. This show is meant to teach something."

Slipping out of the Garson Theatre unnoticed, this intruder was left heartened by the tireless talent of the students of SFUAD, rehearsing into the night. Reap the benefits of these fantastic actors while you can.

The Threepenny Opera
7 pm Fridays and Saturdays, April 21-29;
2 pm Sunday, April 23. $5-$15.
Greer Garson Theatre at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design,
1600 St. Michael's Drive, 473-6011