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Stephen Adly Guirgis is on a prolonged roll. “The Motherf**ker With the Hat” and “Between Riverside and Crazy,” his most recent plays, were serious comedies of urban life whose well-constructed plots kept them roaring down the dramatic track and whose smart, crackling dialogue had all the idiomatic savor of August Wilson at his best. Who knew that the sophomoric author of such earlier plays as “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” would become a purveyor of taut moral tales that are also richly funny?…
Now the Atlantic Theater Company and LAByrinth Theater Company, Mr. Guirgis’ home base, have collaborated on a new play in a similar vein with an equally dumb title, “Halfway Bitches Go Straight to Heaven.” (I really wish he’d seek outside counsel when naming his shows.) The results, once again, are purest delight, all the more so because Mr. Guirgis has turned over a fresh leaf in his writer’s notebook. Unlike its more tightly wrought predecessors, “Halfway Bitches” is a big-cast ensemble piece set in a halfway house for troubled women whose near-plotlessness reminded me of nothing so much as one of Chekhov’s group portraits of turn-of-the-century Czarist Russia on the verge of revolution. It is, truth to tell, a bit too long—nearly three hours—but I wouldn’t want to have to cut it, for “Halfway Bitches,” for all its “Heartbreak House”-like looseness of structure, is so excitingly eventful that your attention will never wander.
Most of Mr. Guirgis’ 20 characters, played by 18 just-right actors, are the staff and occupants of Hope House, described in the script as “a government-funded residence for women providing transitional shelter and support for women in need in New York City.” Some drink, some use drugs, while others seek to break themselves of the no less devastating “habit” of being battered by their faithless partners….
I don’t want to single out any of the actors in “Halfway Bitches” for particular praise, since they’re all giving performances so real that you’ll feel as though you’d recognize their characters if you ran into them on Ninth Avenue after the show….
* * *Read the whole thing here.