Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco

Between Riverside and Crazy
American Conservatory Theater

Also see Eddie's review of Loveland: Good Grief and Richard's reviews of Richard III and Mud Blue Sky

Carl Lumbly
American Conservatory Theater opens its 2015-16 season with a production of Stephen Adly Guirgis' 2015 Pulitzer Prize winning, outrageous black comedy Between Riverside and Crazy. The playwright, who also gave us The Motherfucker with the Hat and Jesus Hopped the 'A' Train, has come out with another highly entertaining comedy/drama. Guirgis has a great ear for dialogue, with characters speaking vivid working class speech in the style of David Mamet with a little of August Wilson thrown in for good measure.

The story centers on Walter "Pops" Washington (Carl Lumbly), a retired New York cop desperately trying to hold on to one of the last great rent-stabilized apartments in New York City. His landlord wants him and his newly paroled son Junior (Samuel Ray Gates) out. His police "friends" Lt. Dave Caro (Gabriel Marin) and Detective Audrey O'Connor (Stacy Ross) are pleading with him to back down from a lawsuit against the city, and the mysterious Santeria (Catherine Castellanos) has promised redemption in the core of all of this chaos. Besides all this, Pops is fighting his own inner demons and is having a problem with a dog brought to his apartment by Lulu (Elia Monte-Brown), Junior's girlfriend. Oh, and then there is Oswaldo (Lakin Valdez), a recovering addict Pops has taken in. All of this makes for a damn good black comedy.

Director Irene Lewis has a secure grip on this vibrant material in an immensely fine production. Her direction is flawless. The acting is brilliant, especially Carl Lumbly as Pops. He gives a powerful performance as a person who is cantankerous one moment and a pussycat the next. Gabriel Marin gives a wonderful, sardonic performance as a bombastic detective trying to get Pops to sign off on the lawsuit and says thing like "Personally, I would love to be able to agree with you completely. Because if not for the fact that you happen to be totally wrong, you'd probably be right. And I mean that."

Stacy Ross is compelling as Detective O'Connor while Catherine Castellanos gives a pitch perfect performance in her big scene as the "church lady." Elia Monte-Brown, Samuel Ray Gates, and Lakin Valdez give vibrant performances in their roles.

Christopher Barreca has designed an awesome, somewhat rundown living room set with a dead Christmas tree on the extreme right of the stage. Candice Donnelly's costumes add to the authenticity of the dark comedy.

I think Ben Brantley of the New York Time said it best about the play, that it is "somewhere south of cozy and north of dangerous, west of sitcom and due east of tragedy."

Between Riverside and Crazy runs through September 27th, 2015, at the A.C.T.S Geary Theater, 415 Geary Street, San Francisco. For tickets call 415-749-2228 or visit www.act-sf.org. Coming up next is Monstress opening September 16 at the Strand Theatre and O'Neill's Ah, Wilderness! at the Geary Theatre on October 14th.

Photo: Kevin Berne

Be sure to check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema

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