Moral ambiguity is familiar territory to Stephen Adly Guirgis, whose most recent play, The Motherf***er with the Hat received 6 well-deserved Tony nods, including one for Best Play.** His work is edgy, funny and thought-provoking. His heroes are flawed. Guirgis’ genre is noir.
His latest work, Between Riverside and Crazy, directed by Austin Pendleton, runs at Second Stage’s Tony Kiser Theatre through March 22nd. The production originated at The Atlantic Theater, where it premiered this past summer, and most of the original cast is intact. (Junior is the main exception, being played by the excellent Ron Cephas Jones in the midtown re-mount.)
Walter “Pops” Washington (Stephen McKinley Henderson) is a recently widowed ex-cop, whose beef with the NYPD has the city kicking in on the side of a landlord seeking his eviction. His former partner, Det. Audrey O’Connor (Elizabeth Canavan) is engaged to the ambitious Lieutenant David Caro (Michael Rispo) who wants to negotiate with Walter and help settle the long unsettled case.
Walter has the impulse to do good. As Dave Caro puts in police-speak “Doing right by doing wrong.” Walter’s sense of honor and cry for justice — or retrinbution– are marred by his personal shortcomings. Walter is an imperfect man. He has made some poor choices. Everyone in Between Riverside and Crazy, even Church Lady (Liza Colon-Zayas) who visits Walter, is pulling some sort of con.
Walter tolerates odd lots of his son’s friends and acquaintances as guests in his spacious home on Riverside Drive. His son Junior lives with him along with Junior’s girlfriend Lulu (Rosal Colon) who calls Walter dad, as does Junior’s old partner in crime and fellow parolee, Oswaldo (Victor Almanzar.)
Walt Spangler’s scenic design creates the sense of a generously appointed apartment, over furnished, and circling around the kitchen which is at its heart.
Between Riverside and Crazy is a powerful play. The acting is uniformly superb, with Stephen McKinley Henderson as the lead standing out in the ensemble.
To find out more about Between Riverside and Crazy, visit the 2ndStage website.
(**We anticipated that The Motherf***er with the Hat would win the Tony as is clear from our review at http://www.vevlynspen.com/2011/05/poetic-is-motherfker-with-hat.html)