BWW Review: BETWEEN RIVERSIDE AND CRAZY at GableStage
Church Ladies Can Work Miracles or How to Raise the Dead on Stage
You have to wait for the second act for the resurrection, as it were, but it's pretty much the most enjoyable wait in a long, long time. Joe Adler's powerful ensemble grabs Pulitzer winner BETWEEN RIVERSIDE AND CRAZY and races through the two hour show in a seemingly fifteen minutes.
Pops Washington, in an engrossing performance by Leo Finnie, is a retired New York City cop with a capital A attitude. He's been suing the NYPD for eight years because a rookie fellow cop shot him six times and called him the name. Pop's had 30 years on the job and he's black. The rookie was white.
Pops' been living since the 70's in a once beautiful rent controlled Riverside Drive apartment. Now it's a dump. His landlord wants him out. He wears his jammies and sits in his dead wife's wheel chair. He drinks, and that's an understatement. He gives TMI in that his junk has not risen since the shooting. He sees himself as an heroic soldier, cop and all time good guy. Or that's what he says. And he takes in strays. A dog which spends more time off stage than Godot; a tattooed ex con, almost recovered drug addict named Octavio, (Arturo Rossi) who calls Pops Dad because his own father threw him out; and Lulu (Gladys Ramirez) who may be a little slow, may be studying accountancy or may be a hooker. And she also may be pregnant. May be by Junior, (Marckenson Charles) Pops' ex-con son who may be a career criminal.
Pops two favorite words begin with M and F.
And then Pops has a social evening. His ex-partner, now Detective Audrey O'Conner (Beverly Blanchette) and her boss and boyfriend, Lt. Dave Caro (Michael Serratore) show up to reminisce about the good old days. But of course there's a lurking ulterior motive. Audrey and Dave are there to persuade him to sign off on a compromise with the NYPD and guess what, Pops refuses.
And so it goes. Octavio returns from seeing his real father and act one is buttoned very nicely. Oh, yes.
Act Two has the arrival of the long expected church lady, only she's a different church lady, (Sara Oliva) strongly accented, somberly dressed, demure and bedecked with colored beads and a gaudy cross. She offers Pops the sacramental wafer, he refuses, so being a woman of the cloth she removes most of the cloth, grabs the family jewels, delivers the wafer, then climbs aboard Pops' long dormant stuff and pumps out the miracle.
I don't know how many orgasm induced straddle sex heart attacks you might have seen, in real life or otherwise, but I guarantee this is the funniest.
The strength of BETWEEN RIVERSIDE AND CRAZY is in writer Stephen Adly Guigus' ability to deliver characters who intrigue and elicit sympathy. And he does write funny stuff. All this, in the hands of director Joseph Adler and his cast gives an evening that's both touching and hilarious.
Lyle Baskin designed the huge apartment set, Bryan Kaschube the lighting and Matt Corey the sound.
Costumes by Ellis Tillman and props by Clara Fath.
"Between Riverside and Crazy" runs through February 19 at GableStage in the Biltmore Hotel, 1200 Anastasia Avenue, Coral Gables. 305-445-1119 http://www.gablestage.org
Photo: L-R: Leo Finnie, Marckenson Charles, Arturo Rossi
Credit: George Schiavone