“I’m a collector of stories,” he said after the play was done. “People tell me stuff and I write it down when I get home, so almost every piece you heard tonight is based on a real story that someone told me. I’ve seen Brooklyn change three or four times, so it’s like, Oh look, gentrification. Change is going on in Brooklyn now,” he continued, “and in twenty years, there’ll be another change. The dialogues across class, race; neighborhood is the dialogue of Brooklyn. That’s where the stories are. ”
In the new play The Motherfucker with the Hat, Cannavale plays Jackie, a paroled drug dealer trying to start a new life with his longtime girlfriend Veronica, and does it with conviction. In less capable hands, Jackie might seem like a weasel, or a thug, or a loser. But Cannavale finds the heart behind the tough-guy façade, and somehow manages to keep Jackie funny through his whole manic journey.