Between Riverside and Crazy OFF-BROADWAY REVIEWS

Photo: Sara Krulwich



  • TM

  • EW

Opening Night:
July 31, 2014
August 16, 2014

Theater: Atlantic Theater / 336 West 20th Street, New York, NY, 10011


City Hall is demanding more than his signature, the Landlord wants him out, the liquor store is closed — and the Church won’t leave him alone. For ex-cop & recent widower Walter “Pops” Washington and his recently paroled son Junior, when the struggle to hold on to one of the last great rent stabilized apartments on Riverside Drive collides with old wounds, sketchy new houseguests, and a final ultimatum, it seems the Old Days are dead and gone — after a lifetime living between Riverside and Crazy.

  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF Between Riverside and Crazy

    Rent-Stabilized, but Otherwise in Flux Stephen Adly Guirgis’s ‘Between Riverside and Crazy’

    Ben Brantley

    August 1, 2014: Between Riverside and Crazy, the rich new play from Stephen Adly Guirgis at the Linda Gross Theater, resides in an in-between land of its own. I’d locate it somewhere south of cozy and north of dangerous, west of sitcom and due east of tragedy. Not surprisingly, those who occupy this prime real estate are not to be wholly trusted, since what they say always shimmies between truth and fiction. For theatergoers who are tired of the clear-cut eithers and ors of most mainstream play writing, Between Riverside and Crazy, which opened Thursday night in a deliciously mounted Atlantic Theater Company production, is a dizzying and exciting place to be. To help orient — or disorient — you, allow me to describe the elements of what may be the sexiest scene on a New York stage this summer, which takes place in the play’s second act. They are a battered old man in a wheelchair, an ample-bodied do-gooder identified in the program only as “Church Lady” and a communion wafer. To reveal much more would spoil what is a, uh, lovely surprise. But I can disclose that baptism and orgasm are not mutually exclusive. Blurring lines between the sacred and profane has always been a specialty of Mr. Guirgis, whose earlier tales of lives on the margins had telling titles like Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train, Our Lady of 121st Street and The Last Days of Judas Iscariot. Staged between 2000 and 2005 by the Labyrinth Theater Company, these works brimmed with original verve. But they also stripped gears as they shifted between confrontational harshness and soft sentimentality.

  • VARIETY REVIEW OF Between Riverside and Crazy

    Off Broadway Review: ‘Between Riverside and Crazy’

    Marilyn Stasio

    July 31, 2014: Stephen Adly Guirgis is such a quintessentially New York playwright, it’s incredible how popular his plays are outside the city limits. You have to wonder what those out-of-towners will make of Between Riverside and Crazy, the scribe’s latest love/hate song to this impossible town and its outlandish citizenry. Some might be baffled by the rancorous real-estate battles between landlords and tenants of Gotham’s rent-controlled apartments. But everyone’s bound to be captivated by Guirgis’s loudmouthed locals and the terrific ensemble players, led by Stephen McKinley Henderson, who bring them to roaring life in Austin Pendleton’s affectionately helmed production. Everybody around here knows Henderson. He’s a go-to stage and film character actor, most recently seen on Broadway in the revival of A Raisin in the Sun with Denzel Washington. But he’s also a familiar, not to say a beloved, fixture in plays by August Wilson, scoring a Tony nomination for best supporting actor in the 2010 revival of Fences. Here, he’s the top banana, reveling in the role of his career as Walter “Pops” Washington, a cantankerous ex-cop who holds the lease on a prime piece of real estate on the Upper West Side — a spacious, two-bedroom rent-controlled apartment on classy Riverside Drive, overlooking the Hudson River. Although Walt Spangler’s elaborate revolving set of this prized property is too top-heavy for the play (be grateful that no one actually uses the bathroom), that overindulgence is forgivable because the apartment is the unbilled star of the play.

  • NEW YORK DAILY NEWS REVIEW OF Between Riverside and Crazy

    Stephen Adly Guirgis’ play about a former New York cop is tender, gritty, shocking and crowned with a great performance by Stephen McKinley Henderson

    Joe Dziemianowicz

    July 31, 2014: You can’t always believe your eyes or ears during Stephen Adly Guirgis’ vivid group portrait, Between Riverside and Crazy. Walter Washington (Stephen McKinley Henderson), an African-American ex-cop and recent widower, is first seen in a wheelchair. But he’s not unable to walk. He just thinks the seat is comfortable. There’s a Christmas tree in Walter’s living room. But it’s not time for tinsel and carols. It’s summer. Except for Junior (Ray Anthony Thomas), his jailbird son, people who call Walter dad aren’t his kids. But Lulu (Rosal Colon), Junior’s curvy girlfriend, and Oswaldo (Victor Almanzar), a sweet ex-con with a very dark side, see something paternal in “Pops.” And that church lady (Liza Colon-Zayas) who comes calling to give Walter communion? She’s no holy roller. The idea that looks can be — and often are — deceiving relates to Walter’s lawsuit against the city. His career and good health were cut short when he was shot eight years ago by a white NYPD rookie. Walter alleges it was racially motivated. The jury’s out on that claim. But Walter’s former partner (Elizabeth Canavan), who’s still on the job, and her fiancé (Michael Rispoli), a lieutenant with political aspirations, use their sway to make Walter settle. If he doesn’t give up, he might lose his rent-stabilized home. The place, like Walter, has seen better days.

  • THEATERMANIA REVIEW OF Between Riverside and Crazy

    Stephen Adly Guirgis premieres an unforgettable new play at Atlantic Theater Company.

    Zachary Stewart

    July 31, 2014: Stepping into a rent-controlled apartment in New York City is an experience akin to time travel. Pre-war cabinetry, overstuffed antique furniture (that was not purchased in an antique store), and the type of New Yorkers you might only see in an old Woody Allen movie: These are all things you're likely to find in your typical rent-controlled apartment in Manhattan. Stephen Adly Guirgis invites audiences on just such a time warp in his brilliant and complicated new play, Between Riverside and Crazy, now making its world premiere at Atlantic Theater Company. The more time you spend in this apartment, however, the more you realize that nothing about it is typical or easily categorized. Walter Washington (Stephen McKinley Henderson) is a widower and ex-cop who has been off the force and pursuing a contentious lawsuit with the NYPD ever since he was shot by a fellow officer. Washington claims the shooting was racially motivated. He spends most days holed up in his palatial Riverside Drive apartment, for which he has held a rent-controlled lease since 1978 and never missed a payment. His son, Junior (Ray Anthony Thomas), lives with him in addition to Junior's girlfriend, Lulu (Rosal Colón), and his recovering junkie buddy Oswaldo (Victor Almanzar). The landlord, who could get ten times the rent Walter pays if the apartment were on the market, is looking for any excuse to evict Walter. His shady houseguests might just be the key.

  • ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY REVIEW OF Between Riverside and Crazy

    Between Riverside and Crazy Review

    Jason Clark

    July 31, 2014: Over the past decade or so, playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis has become the foremost interpreter of NYC's Upper West Side — actually, make that Upper, Upper West Side, so you don't conjure dewy-eyed visions of the Metropolitan Opera or Juilliard. And the language in his works would make a society matron blush (his description of spitting on a certain part of a nun's anatomy in his most famous play, the Tony-nominated eyebrow-raiser The Motherf---er With the Hat, still widens these eyes). But Between Riverside and Crazy, playing at Off Broadway's Atlantic Theater Company through Aug. 16, is quite possibly his most accomplished piece to date. And compared to his other street operas, it's almost cuddly in its intimate family-living backdrop. In this case, cuddly also entails booze, drugs, and prostitutes. Like all of Guirgis' work, Riverside is populated with salty, blue-collar New Yorkers with a penchant for trouble. Walter (the divine Stephen McKinley Henderson) is a diabetic, heart-plagued, wounded ex-cop who subsists on a steady intake of booze and pie as breakfast food. He lives in a spacious apartment with his son, Junior (Ray Anthony Thomas), a former felon, and Junior's buxom girlfriend (Rosal Colon), an accounting student who may also be a lady of the evening. Walter also takes in a recovering addict (Victor Almanzar) shakily trying to live a straight life.



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