Between Riverside and Crazy

Reviewer's Rating

An entertaining script with a blend of seriousness and humour, Between Riverside and Crazy is a pleasant show to watch. In 2014 it won the Pulitzer Prize for drama, and whilst yet it can be dramatic with lots of chaos and shouting – the comedic dialogue is definitely the highlight.

Walter ‘Pops’ Washington (Danny Sapani) is an ex-cop, filled with bitterness and grief and an inability to say, ‘I love you’. The play explores his life, 8 years after he was shot off duty by a rookie white cop, who simultaneously called him the n-word. Last Christmas, his wife died, and the tree is still up. This is a man with so much loss, who turns to alcohol at any time of day.

Accompanying him in his Riverside rent-controlled apartment is Junior (Martins Imhangbe), his son, with which he has a tumultuous and strained relationship; Lulu (Tiffany Gray), Junior’s girlfriend, a ditsy well-meaning ‘student’; and Oswaldo (Sebastian Orozco), junior’s friend and an ex-convict.

The audience sees a lot of love between the characters, specifically between Pops and his house guests, Lulu, and Oswaldo. This endearing start to the play proves effective in allowing the audience to build sympathies towards the characters, so when incidences happen further along, they are left in dismay.

This play is well written, providing comedic lines one after the other, giving a stereotypical sense of New York. The playwright, Stephen Adly Guirgis, has drawn a lot from his own life experiences and the authenticity does come through. The play also addresses a lot of serious issues: racism, grief, class. It does it well, with sophistication and a serious sentiment. It’s also very thoughtful in humanising all the characters. Although Pops has experienced racism, he is not a saint, he is flawed and at times even unlikeable. This play is real in that way.

Danny Sapani, playing Pops, is an excellent actor who owns the stage at every moment. He embodies the role perfectly. Another commendable performance is Lulu (Tiffany Gray), who again gave the character everything it needed. Overall, an impressive cast with immense talent.

The designer, Max Jones, did a terrific job, with notable details like Junior’s Jordans or Pop’s wedding ring. Details like this really show the thought behind everything. The set was fitting enough, a cluttered space with a backdrop of graffiti.

Despite a good show, the play itself sometimes lacks some development with its character profiles and plot lines. Many things are left uncertain, and although perhaps intentional, feel a little empty. Some characters, like Junior, lack depth and even stage time. His disappearances and questionable occupation went unaddressed, as did some of his actions and motivations. Considering he is the other character on the poster, he made as much of an impact as Lulu or Oswaldo. An appearance from the church lady (Ayesha Antoine) was also rather confusing, although entertaining, but as indicated from the title – there is quite a bit of crazy in this play.

Overall, this is an entertaining performance, with unquestionable talent and forethought.

Writer: Stephen Adly Guirgis

Director: Michael Longhurst

Designer: Max Jones

Cast includes: Danny Sapani, Martins Imhangbe, Daniel Lapaine, Judith Roddy

Venue: Hampstead Theatre

Until Saturday 15th June

Running time: 2 hours 30 mins (including 20 minute interval)

Review by Sofia Moran