Photo by Don Kellogg

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Between Riverside and Crazy

As its namesake suggests - Second Stage Theater has given a second chance to a first rate off-Broadway production, Stephen Adly Guirgis' Between Riverside and Crazy, originally seen last season at the Atlantic Theater just a few blocks south.

Aptly directed once again by Austin Pendleton and acted by almost all the original cast in it's debut production, this incarnation seems to pick up just where it left off - even growing and gelling as it ages.  The ingenious rotating disk set by Walt Spangler transforms a small stage into an entire apartment plus a rooftop off to the side.  I d not know the history of the production at the Atlantic but would assume, after experiencing it first hand (the second time around), that there was likely much interest in this work and the Atlantic just couldn't house it under its own roof.  I applaud 2ST for snatching it up and extending its life.

Pops (Stephen McKinley Henderson) helms the ensemble piece like a old pro.  The aging retired and injured black police officer navigates his tumultuous life (The Riverside part) after the force with his less-than-stable family situation (The crazy part) ever-present in his life.  Supporting his fine performance are Oswaldo (Victor Almanzar), Detective O'Connor (Elizabeth Canavan), Lieutenant Caro (Michael Rispoli), Church Lady (Liza Colon-Zayas), Lulu (Rosal Colon), and his son, Junior (Ron Cephas Jones).

Mr. Guirgis' characters are real and present.  Most are complex rather than one-dimensional.  The story he weaves is both specific and modern.  However, because Pops is complex, he is able to weave an air of mystery into Pops' motivations and actions which mostly succeeded.  If I had to point out one thing which may need to be improved it is the speed at which the ending comes out of nowhere and concludes the show.  Somehow this probably needs to be slowed down an backed up into the show with a bit more so the effect is smoother.