I attended a performance this afternoon of Atlantic Theater Company’s production of Stephen Adly Guirgis’s new play, “Between Riverside and Crazy.” It was not clear to me whether this was a preview or whether the production has actually opened, but everything went very smoothly and the cast and technical crew certainly have everything under control.
I was very entertained and impressed by this story of an elderly African-American former NYC police officer, retired on a disability pension and struggling along in his rent controlled Riverside Drive apartment. Other characters are the officer’s son, his son’s girlfriend, another friend of the son who is living in the apartment as a guest, a “church lady” who pays a visit, and a police lieutenant and his police detective fiancé who come to dinner. This seven-member cast provides lively entertainment in a drama that has moments of comedy and is fast-paced and engaging under the direction of Austin Pendleton. The set by Walt Spangler provides an excellent representation of one of those big old Upper West Side Manhattan rent controlled apartments.
Stephen McKinley Henderson creates an unforgettable character as “Pops” Washington, the retired cop. He has been given witty dialogue and he makes the most of it. Victor Almanzar is amusing and horrifying as an ex-con junkie friend of Pops’ son, and Ray Anthony Thomas is solid as the son, Junior. Rosal Colon as Junior’s girlfriend, Lulu, provides much of the comic relief as well as some of the pathos. Michael Rispoli and Elizabeth Canavan play the police officers who are charming at first. Finally, Liza Colon-Zayas is a “church lady” with an agenda.
I wouldn’t call this a “deep” show, but I think there are many interesting messages buried in it as it explores the perspective of somebody in the position of Pops who is determined not to become a victim of the system that he has come to detest. This was very much worth seeing, and I hope it draws full houses for the rest of its run.