AISLE SAY San Francisco


by Stephen Adly Guirgis
Directed by Irene Lewis
Presented by & at American Conservatory Theater
415 Geary St. at Mason, San Francisco / (415) 749-2228
Reviewed by Judy Richter

A curmudgeonly, heavy-drinking ex-cop lives in a rent-controlled apartment on New York City's Riverside Drive with an assortment of what he calls guests in "Between Riverside and Crazy," winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Best Drama.

Presented by American Conservatory Theater, this play by Stephen Adly Guirgis features Carl Lumbly as Walter "Pops" Washington, still grieving over the death of his wife a year ago. Walter, who is black, also is hoping to win a multi-million-dollar suit against the NYPD after being shot by a white fellow officer eight years ago, forcing him into early retirement.

Walter's son, Junior (Samuel Ray Gates), recently released from prison, is one of Walter's guests, meaning he doesn't pay rent. Junior wants him to accept a generous settlement from the NYPD and get the whole thing behind him, but Walter stands firm.

Walter's other guests, both of whom call him Dad, are Oswaldo (Lakin Valdez), a recovering addict who's had his own brushes with the law; and Lulu (Elia Monte-Brown), Junior's girlfriend.

Also urging Walter to take the settlement are his former partner, Detective Audrey O'Connor (Stacy Ross), and her fiance, police Lt. Dave Caro (Gabriel Marin) -- both white -- who visit him for dinner one evening. Once again, he refuses.

The play's other character, known only as Church Lady (Catherine Castellanos), visits Walter about two weeks later and orchestrates a highly unusual and highly hilarious seduction that has some surprising consequences.

The script is heavily laced with profanity, which becomes tedious and causes one to wonder if Carl and his guests know any adjectives other than those formed with a four-letter word and its variants.

Otherwise, the play is a fascinating look at Walter's gruff but loving relationship with Junior as well as his concern for Oswaldo and Lulu. Most of all, it chronicle's Walter's emotional journey from anger and grief to hope and happiness.

Director Irene Lewis assists her well-chosen cast in delving into each character's complexities. Some of those complexities are in the lines, but others are unspoken. For example, Ross as Audrey sincerely wants to help Walter, but some of her reactions to Dave's heavy-handedness show she's torn between her concern for Walter and her love for Dave.

Christopher Barreca's set reflects what has become of Walter's life with its hints of better days and its symbols of present reality, such as the Christmas tree still standing in the summer.

Candice Donnelly's costumes help to define the characters. The sound is by Leon Rothenburg, the lighting by Seth Reiser. At the Sept. 10 performance, a glitch caused the lights to dim and brighten at random intervals in Act 1, but it was remedied for Act 2. To their credit, the actors proceeded as if nothing were amiss.

Running about two hours and 15 minutes with one intermission, "Between Riverside and Crazy" is a fascinating but funny play and a great way for ACT to launch its 2015-16 season.

For More Information

Return to Home Page

  • Road (National) Tour Review Index
  • New York City & Environs Theatre Review Index
  • Berkshire, Massachusetts Theatre Review Index
  • Boston Area Theatre Review Index
  • Florida Theatre Review Index
  • London Theatre Review Index
  • Minneapolis/St. Paul (Twin Cities) Theatre Review Index
  • Philadelphia & Environs Theatre Review Index
  • San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Review Index
  • Seattle Area Theatre Review Index
  • Toronto, Ontario (Canada) Index