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Stephen Adly Girgis’ novel Between Riverside and Madness has a lot to say about the connection

 

Stephen McKinley Henderson and Common Photo by Joan Markus 2022.

It’s easy to see why Between Riverside and the Crazy by Stephen Adly Girgis won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for a drama currently playing at the Hayes Theater on Broadway. The action takes place in 2014. Stephen McKinley Henderson plays the ailing patriarch Pops, a retired cop, war veteran, senior citizen living in a fabulous rent-controlled Manhattan apartment. He has lived here since 1984. His wife is dead and now living with him are his newly freed son Junior (Normal, in a solid Broadway debut), his flippant girlfriend Lulu (Rosal Colón), and recovering drug addict friend Osvaldo (Victor Almanzar). who see in this man the dad they missed, besides their own son. Eviction, life and death hung over all their heads.

Stephen McKinley Henderson, Victor Almanzar and Common Photo by Joan Marcus 2022.

Pops has been shot by a white cop and is holding on until payday. His ex-partner Audrey (Elizabeth Canavan) and her fiancé Lt. Caro (Gary Parez) want him to settle his fight with City Hall. But questions about who the settlement is for and what actually happened are not what they seem.

Lisa Colon-Zayas. Photo by Joan Marcus, 2022

A church lady (Lisa Colon-Zayas) enters, who seems to know more than she should, and who stimulates Pop to life and then pushes him to the brink of death, and all is not as it seems.

Common, Rosal Colon. Photo by Joan Marcus, 2022

Walt Spangler’s set of merry-go-rounds gives us the boundaries and perimeters of the prison cells we place ourselves in, while Austin Pendleton’s direction makes Girgis’ dark and biting jokes shoot at a fast pace. Pendleton keeps his cast in true ensemble with Henderson shining like a bright light; powerful, cheerful, stubborn, bitter, touching and always regal, except when he gives way to the sultry high priestess-like Zayas. Common, Colon and Almansar are given moments when they go into orbit, and in the theater this is satisfying.

Stephen McKinley Henderson, Elizabeth Caravan Photo by Joan Marcus 2022.

Between Riverside and Crazy is a layered piece that has a lot to say. It’s painfully funny, relevant and real. This play does not take sides, but reveals tense moments and everything in between with humanity. This is an amazing three course meal for us when we go hungry and leave full and full. I highly recommend this production.

Commo Photo by Joan Marcus

Between Riverside and Crazy: Hayes Theatre, 240 West 44th Street. Until February 19th.

Stephen McKinley Henderson. Photo by Joan Marcus, 2022

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