In today’s Wall Street Journal I review a Florida production of Stephen Adly Guirgis’ Between Riverside and Crazy. Here’s an excerpt.
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The Pulitzer Prize for drama is not infrequently given for reasons other than pure excellence, but on occasion it hits the right target with admirable exactitude. Such was the case when the 2015 prize went to Stephen Adly Guirgis’ “Between Riverside and Crazy,” an uncommonly fine serious comedy about a widowed cop who got shot off duty eight years ago and, now unhappily retired, is stewing in his own acidic juices. By all rights, “Between Riverside and Crazy” should have transferred to Broadway after its highly successful Atlantic Theater Company run, but new plays, funny or not, no longer tend to do well on the Great White Way. Instead it has been enthusiastically taken up by regional theaters. The latest of these companies, Coral Gables’ GableStage, produced Mr. Guirgis’ “The Motherf**ker With the Hat” in 2012 and did it at least as well as the play had been done on Broadway the preceding season. GableStage’s production of “Between Riverside and Crazy” is yet another coup, a bases-loaded four-bagger that will remind anyone who’s still wondering that you don’t have to go to New York to see great theater.
Like “Motherf**ker,” “Between Riverside and Crazy” is a tough-minded domestic comedy about urban life that never settles for been-there-seen-that predictability. Pops (Leo Finnie), the cop who got shot, longs to exact revenge on the New York Police Department for having cynically given him what he believes to be the run-around. Beneath his boiling rage, he’s also a decent guy who wants to do the right thing by Junior (Marckenson Charles), his troubled son, and Oswaldo and Lulu (Arturo Rossi and Gladys Ramirez), two of Junior’s friends who have also taken up residence in his apartment.
This situation could have been be played out in all sorts of creakily obvious, politically correct ways, but “Between Riverside and Crazy” never lets that happen. Nobody is idealized, least of all Pops, nor are there any black-hatted villains. In Mr. Guirgis’ Manhattan, all motives are mixed…
Stephen McKinley Henderson, who created the role of Pops in the play’s original off-Broadway production, is one of America’s top character actors. I can say no better about Mr. Finnie than that he makes a wholly individual impression in the same part…
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Read the whole thing here.