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Review Roundup: Atlantic Theater's BETWEEN RIVERSIDE AND CRAZY

Atlantic Theater Company presents the world premiere production of Stephen Adly Guirgis' play BETWEEN RIVERSIDE AND CRAZY, directed by Austin Pendleton and starring Victor Almanzar, Elizabeth Canavan, Rosal Colón, Liza Colon-Zayas, Tony Award nominee Stephen McKinley Henderson, Michael Rispoli, and Ray Anthony Thomas. The production opens tonight, July 31 for a limited engagement through Saturday, August 16, 2014 off-Broadway.

BETWEEN RIVERSIDE AND CRAZY features scenic design by Walt Spangler, costume design by Alexis Forte, lighting design by Keith Parham, and original music and sound design by Ryan Rumery.

City Hall is demanding more than his signature, the Landlord wants him out, the liquor store is closed - and the Church won't leave him alone. For ex-cop & recent widower Walter "Pops" Washington and his recently paroled son Junior, when the struggle to hold on to one of the last, great rent-stabilized apartments on Riverside Drive collides with old wounds, sketchy new houseguests, and a final ultimatum, it seems the Old Days are dead and gone - after a lifetime living between Riverside and Crazy.

Let's see what the critics had to say...

Ben Brantley, The New York Times: For theatergoers who are tired of the clear-cut eithers and ors of most mainstream play writing, "Between Riverside and Crazy,"... is a dizzying and exciting place to be..."Between Riverside and Crazy," which features a superb cast led by Stephen McKinley Henderson and directed by Austin Pendleton, shows no signs of backsliding by its author. It's as fresh and startling as "Hat," but in a slyer, quieter vein. "Hat" was a volcanic chain of eruptions; "Riverside" creeps up on you. And every time you think you've figured out where it's going, Mr. Guirgis alters its course, forcing you to readjust your emotional bearings and your take on its characters.

Marilyn Stasio, Variety: Stephen Adly Guirgis is such a quintessentially New York playwright, it's incredible how popular his plays are outside the city limits. You have to wonder what those out-of-towners will make of "Between Riverside and Crazy," the scribe's latest love/hate song to this impossible town and its outlandish citizenry. Some might be baffled by the rancorous real-estate battles between landlords and tenants of Gotham's rent-controlled apartments. But everyone's bound to be captivated by Guirgis's loudmouthed locals and the terrific ensemble players, led by Stephen McKinley Henderson, who bring them to roaring life in Austin Pendleton's affectionately helmed production.

Linda Winer, Newsday: What a wonderful new play has opened Off-Broadway at the Atlantic Theater Company, right in the dead of summer and without the kind of movie-star names that would catapult it directly to Broadway. But this is a genuine original, one that deserves to be seen by anyone hungry for a smart, exuberantly funny urban dramedy with a spirit as shrewd and forgiving as its motor-mouth language is wild and lush...Almost all the seven-actor cast, keenly directed with layers of eccentricity and generosity by Austin Pendleton, come with stylistic expertise from the LAB and/or August Wilson plays. Stephen McKinley Henderson is riveting, a master of understated savvy...

Elysa Gardner, USA Today: Henderson has established himself as one of the most supple character actors working today, combining a stringent comic proficiency with an earthy dignity and sense of empathy that can break your heart. In Riverside...Henderson gets to put those gifts to use as a leading man...Never one to settle for simple answers or snarky observations, Guirgis portrays his characters, and their twisting journeys, with humor and compassion. That approach is abetted here by Austin Pendleton's animated but sensitive direction...To survive in the imperfect world these folks inhabit -- and try to attain grace in -- is something of a miracle in itself, and Guirgis, in his predictably unsentimental way, finds warmth and wonder in their struggle.

David Cote, Time Out NY: Everyone has a secret in this play, which, like its UWS apartment, is capacious but scruffy at the edges. Henderson carries his scenes with a wary warmth, as Walter tests the guts and moral fiber of those around him. Austin Pendleton's keen direction on Walt Spangler's evocative rotating set ensures that we enjoy our time at Walter's joint, even if recrimination and lies make it hard to tell the victims from the perps.

Robert Kahn, NBC New York: With "Riverside," playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis again employs trademarks such as a place-specific title (he also wrote "Our Lady of 121st Street" and "The Little Flower of East Orange"), and rich, whip-snap dialogue that reliably strays into the profane...An ultimately unnerving story about human nature, "Riverside" has so much going for it that it insists on your attention, even though it's depressing as all get-out...Pops is a man dealt an unfortunate blow by fate. Guirgis and Henderson's grand accomplishment is in convincing us of Pops's resilience, when he is, in fact, a man irreparably damaged. You can't help but care about the old man, even as he leaves you wondering how many wrongs it will take to make everything all right.

Elisabeth Vincentelli, New York Post: The show's best scenes are just of people shooting the breeze gruffly but affectionately...Guirgis is best in the scenes between Walter and his police friends, Audrey (Elizabeth Canavan) and Dave (Michael Rispoli), especially when a relaxed dinner skids into an argument with sharp realism. Directed by Austin Pendleton, the show strains only when it doesn't know where to stop -- as with Walt Spangler's set, which rotates distractingly...

Jason Clark, Entertainment Weekly: Between Riverside and quite possibly [Stephen Adly Guirgis'] most accomplished piece to date...Austin Pendleton...has a firm handle on the material in this tremendously fine production. The delicate shifts in directorial tone...enhance the twisted, cyclical (and even spiritual) logic of the play...This entire company is first-rate, though the diction could be sharpened in a few instances -- Guirgis' words are far too good to lose. Between Riverside and Crazy offers a wonderful showcase for the talents of Henderson. After decades of fine character work in Broadway and Off Broadway productions of August Wilson and other luminaries, he finally gets to chomp into a dynamite leading role, and he does so gracefully and thoughtfully, without sanding down any of Walter's rough edges.

Check back in the AM for updates!

Photo Credit: Kevin Thomas Garcia

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