Playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis’ play “Between Riverside and Crazy” is now having its Los Angeles premiere at the Fountain Theatre after having won the New York Drama Critics Circle award and the Pulitzer Prize. It is hyped as a fearless, hilarious comedy-drama.
I must have seen a different play.
In this play every African American man has father issues. Having absorbed the contempt or indifference of their fathers, they have developed into angry, belligerent, vindictive men, prone to arguing, berating, and fighting with each other or participating in periodic pity parties.
They come and go in the lavish apartment of Walter Washington, an erstwhile policeman whom they all call “Pops”. This apartment on Riverside Drive in a relatively classy section of New York’s West Side was given to Pops in compensation for his having had six bullets pumped into his leg and groin eight years earlier by a white rookie cop. This has left Pops lame, alcoholic, bitter, and celibate.
Pops, played with a strong and urgent passion by Montae Russell, serves as the patriarch of the motley crew who periodically inhabit his apartment. This includes Junior (Matthew Hancock), his perpetually angry son, who lives on the fringes of society by indulging in various illegal activities (he has just returned home after a few months in jail), Junior’s trampy girlfriend Lulu (Marisol Miranda), whose only purpose seems to be to arouse and satisfy his sexual urges, and Oswaldo, (Victor Anthony), Junior’s friend, a rather dim young man trying to do something about his addictions.
The play revolves around Pops’ problem. For the past eight years he has been suing the NYPD, but has turned down whatever they offered as a settlement for having been shot by a cop. Now they are demanding that he close the suit. And the landlord of his apartment is trying to evict him.
Trying to solve the problem is Lt. Dave Caro (Joshua Bitton), a friend who has married Pops’ earlier rookie partner, Audrey O’Connor (Lesley Fera), now a Detective, still affectionately attached to Pops.
But Lt. Dave has worsened the problem by accepting an NYPD settlement for $15,000 on Pops’ behalf—a sum that is far from acceptable to Pops.
And from here the play spirals into an ending that is both unexpected and unbelievable, especially given the heavy drama of most of the earlier scenes. But there is one episode in the middle of the play in which Pops gets a mystical reprieve of a sort. He is visited by a “Church Lady” from Brazil (Liza Fernandez) who pesters him into a seduction in which she sits on his lap and pumps him to orgasm, thus releasing him from celibacy. But it’s only a preview of what, presumably, is to come.
“Between Riverside and Crazy” will be performed at The Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., Los Angeles, Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 2 and 8pm, Sundays at 2pm, and Mondays at 8pm, through December 15th.
For tickets call (323) 663-1525 or go online to www.Fountain Theatre.com.