Reviewed by Jeffrey R Smith of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle

 Now through March 16th, the San Francisco Playhouse is performing THE MOTHER F _ _ _ _ _ WITH THE HAT by Stephen Adly Guirgis.

 If theatre was invented, as Artistic Director Bill English avers, “to fulfill a spiritual purpose in our lives,” then this play reaches a close approximation of that raison d’être.

 The characters in the play are not the kinds of people who are likely to attend a performance of THE MOTHER … , they are not likely to be people you would strike up a conversation with on BART, well Veronica yes, but for all the wrong reasons.

 The show is a high octane blend of volatility: part mystery—whose hat is it?—part comedy and part dysfunctional love story.

 Jackie who discovers the hat in his girlfriend’s apartment—played by one of the finest actors in the Bay Area: Gabriel Marin—is likely to be the rantipole carrying on a heated conversation with himself on the subway; if you accidently sat next to Jackie, you would relocate to another seat, another car or possibly exit the train and wait for the next one.

 Profanity rolls off Jackie’s tongue like it did for Pacino in SCARFACE.

 Jackie—much to Marin’s superb acting credit—speaks a staccato Bronx dialect at a rate just a notch below the red line on your audio processing speed; were the entire cast to speak as rapid fire as Jackie, the show would be compressed to a half hour.

 If Jackie is the explosive, then Veronica—played by Isabelle Ortega with self-absorbed detachment and sizzling eroticism—is the both Chiquita who lights the fuse and the detonator.

 As the Jungians remind us, when the psyche is not well, it does not call in a psychotherapist, it invites a Joker into our lives; a Joker who resonates with us and one which has the power to torment us, lancing our psychic carbuncles and reopening scars.

 Veronica is that Joker; a masterful manipulator, operating on a low budget, giving everyone what they want while extracting everything she needs via an invisible symbiosis.

 Veronica is pure contractualism dressed up as intimacy and sensuality; you might let her into your life but you will never get her out of your mind.

 Cousin Julio—played delightfully by Rudy Guerrero—is the rose in Spanish Harlem: sharp, savvy, cool, hip, funny, sensitive, buff and faithfully connected at the familial root with Jackie; he puts leavening and light into the show.

 A set design by Bill English and Matt Vuolo looks like it was ripped from the hood; somewhere north of 125 Street.

 High Speed Rail might never get to California but THE MOTHER F _ _ _ _ _ WITH THE HAT … has already pulled into the station; it is a bullet train that rips through the evening air, powered by a high tension plot line and an energized cast.

 This is high speed entertainment; the seats should have shoulder harnesses.

 For tickets, contact the Box Office at SFPLAYHOUSE.ORG or 415.667.9596.