The winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize, Between Riverside and Crazy, now playing at the Fountain Theatre, takes on the hot-button issue of police department machinations through the lens of a family whose lives have been affected on multiple levels. Factor in the family’s other issues and “crazy” begins to look predestined.
This is an up-close look at Manhattan life, starting from the “please mute your cell phone” announcement, given in a heavy New Yawk accent. A former cop who has recently lost his wife is also coping with his own health issues, the return home of his paroled son and entourage, possible eviction, and a lawsuit he’s brought against his former “family,” the NYPD.
Pops (Montae Russell) rails against the system and its representatives to his son Junior (Matthew Hancock) and Junior’s struggling friend Oswaldo (Victor Anthony) and provocative girlfriend Lulu (Marisol Miranda). Pops’ coping skills aren’t at their best and his anger threatens to take him out, especially during a visit by two of his former friends from the force (Joshua Bitton and Lesley Fera). A much-dreaded visit from a “church lady” (Liza Fernandez) seems unlikely to offer him the peace he seeks.
The cast all deliver powerful performances, creating characters that play off each other with an undercurrent of care and concern that they can’t always adequately express. The characters’ emotions wrestle their common sense into submission; their bad choices threaten to send them all into the street, the hospital or the morgue.
Yet there’s a glimmer of optimism that prevents Between Riverside and Crazy from being bleak. There’s humor and wordplay and fantastic music – even a touch of Rudy Giuliani. The theme of fatherhood is attacked from land, sea and air but somehow manages to hold up.
Playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis wrote the 2011 play The MotherF-er with the Hat, so the language, while rough, isn’t unexpected. We’re left feeling like voyeurs looking in on but unable to advise a group of people making bad choices who somehow win us over. Director Guillermo Cienfuegos does the script proud in a set decorated to rundown Riverside Drive perfection by Shen Heckel.
Between Riverside and Crazy runs Friday-Mondays through December 15, 2019 at the Fountain Theatre. For dates and times, click here. Tickets are $40 and $45, $35 for seniors and $25 for students. Monday nights offer a pay-what-you-want option.