Wednesday, December 21, 2022

My Review of Between Riverside and Crazy

Stephen McKinley Henderson rules Between Riverside and Crazy

A Pulitzer Prize winner in 2015, Between Riverside and Crazy comes to Broadway with most of the cast repeated their award-winning roles. Stephen McKinley Henderson once again rules the stage as Pops.

I did not see the play off Broadway eight years ago, so I cannot comment on the changes. But from Mr. Henderson’s own interview, the original thrust of the play was Pops dealing with the death of his wife. The thrust of the story now centers around Pops’ police work and his retirement – the change brought on by acknowledgement of police brutality in the intervening years.

Stephen McKinley Henderson, Elizabeth Canavan, Michael Rispoli, Rosal Colon, and Common
(C) Joan Marcus

The famous new member of this experienced troop is the musician Common. He is excellent in the unlikeable role of Junior, Pops’ son. His performance is restrain when needed and agitated when appropriate.

The story centers around a rent-controlled apartment on Riverside drive, a very nice part of town. Pops houses a group of three young people: his son, Junior’s girlfriend, and Junior’s recovering friend, Oswaldo. But a rent-controlled apartment in this part of town is an endangered species. And Pops was offered a good price to move out 8 years ago. He fought the city as a decorated veteran, injured police officer and older man. And Pops is still fighting to stay in the apartment 8 years later.

Change comes when Pops is visited by his old partner on the force and her fiancé. They talk about old times and reminisce before she and her husband try, once again, to have Pops take a deal to get money and leave the apartment with a nice payout. He stubbornness and pride don't allow whim to take the offer. Then entire process of kicking him out of his home is indicative of the racism in the gentrification of the neighborhood.

But trouble brews in his home with the family. Junior has left, his girl-friend may be pregnant and Oswaldo has fallen off the wagon.

Stephen McKinley Henderson,  Common

Pops deals with these troubles, and a beating, with anger and bluster. But he and his son ultimately have a heart to heart. It is clear this open and honest relationship has been something Junior has wanted since his mother died. And it is equally clear that intimacy and openness come dear to them both. It is hard to open up after a lifetime of stoicalness. 

Between Riverside and Crazy is a story about forgiveness, stubbornness and love. None of these emotions come easily – except stubbornness – and it takes a life change for these to occur.

I very much enjoyed the show. The acting is wonderful with no bad performances or weak links. The sets are complex, but somehow add a simplicity to the show. Kudos to Production Manager John C. Moore. Austin Pendleton is the director and moves multiple story lines together seamlessly.

Between Riverside and Crazy
PlaywrightStephen Adly Guirgis | DirectorAustin Pendleton | CastStephen McKinley Henderson, Common, Elizabeth Canavan, Michael Rispoli, Rosal Colon, Victor Alamanzar, Liza Colon-Zayas

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