There is a certain something about the Upper West Side of Manhattan, especially Riverside Drive with that ribbon of park, the Hudson flowing downstream, and the view of the New Jersey Palisades across the river. If you happen to live in a Riverside Drive apartment and are fortunate enough to have that river view, it is pretty special. The higher up the better. And the roof top is cool too, especially if the Macy’s Fourth of July fireworks lights up the night time sky from barges in the Hudson River. Such joy means nothing to Walter “Pops” Washington (Montae Russell), the unlikeable, irascible, bitter protagonist in Stephen Adly Guirgis’ scintillating Pulitzer Prize winning play, Between Riverside and Crazy.
Walter is a NYPD officer who took six bullets in less than appropriate circumstances eight years before the action of the play. A recent widower, he lives in a big rent-controlled apartment from which the owner has been suing to evict him. Clothed in a robe, sweat pants, and slippers, he rumbles around in the apartment in his late wife’s wheel chair and is never far from his whiskey bottle. He imbibes steadily throughout the day and night. He is not a slurring, falling-down drunk, but his continual consumption gives me a phantom headache.
A pitiable young ex-con named Oswaldo (Victor Anthony) lives with him. Oswaldo has the shy, hesitant demeanor of a recovering addict who has some screws a bit loose. He has modest ambitions. Also living with Walter is his recently paroled son, Junior (Matthew Hancock), and his hot-stuff girl friend Lulu (Marisol Miranda), who has the whiff of the street about her. The two lovers have an oddly strong bond of hot physical attraction that clashes with uncertain affection.
Walter has an ongoing dispute with the city and police department over his disability settlement that has been festering for years due to Walters intransigence. A pair of former NYPD associates, Detective O’Connor (Lesley Fera), a rookie at the time of Walter’s shooting, and her up and coming boy friend, Lt. Caro (Joshua Bitton) come for a visit with the ulterior motive of getting him to settle for his own good. Detective O’Connor has great respect and affection for Walter as does the lieutenant, but Walter is a hard case who turns hostile and boots them out of the apartment.
Stephen Adly Guirgis’ script deserves its accolades and in the sure hands of director Guillermo Cienfuegos, Between Riverside and Crazy is an exciting, engrossing piece of theatre with cast of seasoned pros, and that definitely includes Liza Fernandez as the mysterious Church Lady who shows up in the second act. I can say no more.
The Fountain’s creative team includes scenic designer David Maurer, lighting designer Matt Richter, sound designer Christopher Moscatiello, costume designer Christine Cover Ferro and prop master Shen Heckel. The production stage manager is Alexis Hettick. James Bennett, Deborah Culver, Simon Levy and Stephen Sachs produce for the Fountain Theatre, and the executive producer is Barbara Herman.
Between Riverside and Crazy extends through Jan. 26 at The Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Avenue in Los Angeles.