Between Riverside and Crazy Review – Not So Far After All

Montae Russell and Victor Anthony in BETWEEN RIVERSIDE AND CRAZY - Photo by Jenny Graham

The Pulitzer Prize committee called BETWEEN RIVERSIDE AND CRAZY “a nuanced, beautifully written play about a retired police officer faced with eviction that uses dark comedy to confront questions of life and death.” After such an accolade, it should come as no surprise that BETWEEN RIVERSIDE AND CRAZY won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 2015, along with 2015 awards from the New York Drama Critics Circle, the Outer Critics Circle, and the Broadway Alliance. The Fountain Theatre is ready to let audiences in on what all the fuss was about as it presents the Los Angeles premiere of BETWEEN RIVERSIDE AND CRAZY.

Montae Russell, Joshua Bitton, Lesley Fera, Marisol Miranda, and Matthew Hancock – Photo by Jenny Graham

Former beat cop and recent widower Walter “Pops” Washington (Montae Russell) lives in his huge rent-controlled New York apartment on Riverside Drive with his paroled son Junior (Matthew Hancock), his son’s sexy girlfriend Lulu (Marisol Miranda), and his son’s loser friend and recovering addict Oswaldo (Victor Anthony). So how come this relatively together black guy has been retired from the NYPD for years? It seems that he was shot quite a few times by another police officer – who just happened to be white. There’s been a civil suit pending in court for years about the incident, which Pops opines was white-on-black discrimination. As he holds out for a big financial reward, the NYPD is demanding that he settle the suit – or else. His former partner Detective Audrey O’Connor (Lesley Fera) is begging him to capitulate, while her fiancé Lt. Dave Caro (Joshua Bitton) is banking big career moves on getting the settlement in the bag. Pops’ landlord wants him evicted; his son is involved in some mystery ventures; Lulu may be pregnant with his grandchild; Oswaldo is ready to explode; and he’s being pushed to the wall every which way by nearly everyone involved. Is crazy his next destination?

Marisol Miranda and Montae Russell – Photo by Jenny Graham

Playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis hits each pressure point with just the right amount of force, meanwhile eliciting laughs as Pops fights the world. With a keen ear for day-to-day, sometimes salty and often irreverent speech in the heart of old New York, Guirgis has created a houseful of memorable characters, each with his own axe to grind and each with just enough personality quirks to make him fascinating. Skilled director Guillermo Cienfuegos knows just which buttons to push as the merry septet explodes into fun and fancy. Lots of black humor peppers the proceedings, so get ready to chuckle – and maybe even guffaw. Comments about New York’s mayor in 2015 are especially hilarious.

Liza Fernandez and Marisol Miranda – Photo by Jenny Graham

David Mauer’s scenic/video design strikes the perfect note in this bedraggled but beloved home, with Christine Cover Ferro’s costumes, Christopher Moscatiello’s sound, and Matt Richter’s lighting fitting right into the New York crazy moments. In fact, the entire production team does a great job chasing around the stage in between scenes. If only to celebrate a Pulitzer Prize-winning play, BETWEEN RIVERSIDE AND CRAZY is a must-see – but this production offers much more. It is a superbly directed, acted, and produced must-see show.

SPLASH SELECTION

BETWEEN RIVERSIDE AND CRAZY runs through December 15, 2019, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Mondays (dark 10/21 and 12/9), at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturdays (no performance at 2 p.m. on 10/19), and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. The Fountain Theatre is located on 5060 Fountain Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90029. Tickets range from $40 to $45 (seniors $35 and students $25; Mondays Pay-What-You-Can subject to availability). For information and reservations, call 323-663-1525 or go online.

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