[Note: This review is for the production that played at the Atlantic in 2014. The cast of the 2015 Second Stage transfer is largely unchanged, with Ron Cephas jones replacing Ray Anthony Thomas.]
Between Riverside and Crazy: In brief
An ex-cop and his ex-con son try to hang on to their rent-stabilized apartment in a new play by conflict king Stephen Adly Guirgis (The Motherf**ker with the Hat, Our Lady of 121st Street). Austin Pendleton directs a cast that includes Michael Rispoli, Ray Anthony Thomas, Liza Colón-Zayas and the great August Wilson veteran Stephen McKinley Henderson.
Between Riverside and Crazy: Theater review by David Cote
It’s hard to tell the sinners from the saints with Stephen Adly Guirgis. The earthy playwright—whose profanity-laced urban yarns were often directed by the late (still cannot fucking accept it) Philip Seymour Hoffman—likes his justice rough and his morality slippery. So don’t be fooled by Stephen McKinley Henderson’s teddy-bear profile or his low, honeyed voice in Between Riverside and Crazy. A homebound ex-cop who drinks at 10am, Walter “Pops” Washington is not here to save anyone’s ass, including his own.
Salvation has always been a red herring with Guirgis. His people talk about how they want to clean up and fly right but always fall back on vices, grudges or plain old meanness. Thuggish Oswaldo (Victor Almanzar) starts out in Walter’s kitchen glumly chomping organic almonds and vitamin water, not junk food. Guess how he’ll be snacking by the end? Walter’s ex-con son, Junior (Ray Anthony Thomas), may be fencing stolen goods but professes to study music at City College. His girlfriend, Lulu (Rosal Colón), claims to be an accountant in training but could be mistaken for a prostitute. As for Walter, he was shot off-duty by a white cop years ago; lost his wife; won’t leave his highly gentrifiable, rent-controlled apartment; or settle his lawsuit against the NYPD. But don’t think we should root for him.
Everyone has a secret in this play, which, like its UWS apartment, is capacious but scruffy at the edges. Henderson carries his scenes with a wary warmth, as Walter tests the guts and moral fiber of those around him. Austin Pendleton’s keen direction on Walt Spangler’s evocative rotating set ensures that we enjoy our time at Walter’s joint, even if recrimination and lies make it hard to tell the victims from the perps.—Theater review by David Cote
THE BOTTOM LINE In this gritty Guirgis drama, no one is innocent.
Follow David Cote on Twitter: @davidcote