Crazy for you – A review of “Between Riverside and Crazy”


Michael “Buzz” Buzzelli, ‘Burgh Vivant

At first glance, Walter “Pops” Washington (Eugene Lee) seems like an affable, uncomplicated man, but there’s a lot more bubbling beneath the surface with Pops and his new roommates in “Between Riverside and Crazy.”

Pops lived alone for a short time after his wife’s death. Now, he lives with his son, Junior (Bryant Bentley), Junior’s girlfriend, Lulu (Christina Nieves), and two strays they picked up, Oswaldo (Alejandro Hernandez) and a dog (unseen and mostly unheard).

Junior seems like a square-jawed hero, Lulu seems like a ditzy slut and Oswaldo seems like the most put-together of the bunch, but in “Between Riverside and Crazy” nothing is how it seems. Lulu even remarks about her scantily clad appearance, “I may look how I look, but that don’t mean I am how I look.” It’s a bold statement that rings true for everyone in “Crazy.”

Pops has a knapsack full of problems; his wife has recently passed, his health is declining and he’s been trying to sue the New York Police Department. It doesn’t stop him from eating pie for breakfast.

(left to right) Eugene Lee (Pops) and Alejandro Hernandez (Oswaldo) have a interesting breakfast together. (photo credit: Pittsburgh Public Theater)

His old partner Audrey (Dawn McGee) and her finance Lieutenant Caro (Drew Stone) come by for dinner, but they have a several ulterior motives. Audrey wants Pops to walk her down the aisle, but Caro is there for his own reasons.

A series of unfortunate incidents events occur that would shock Lemony Snicket himself, including an incident with a Church Lady (Karina Arroyave) that would make Dana Carvey wince.

The play, written by Stephen Adly Guirgis (“Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train,” “Motherf**ker with a Hat”), won a 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Lee is the perfect Pops. He is mesmerizing, charismatic and charming. Even when he’s being ornery and feisty, Pops comes across as lovable. When his past misdeeds are mentioned (and there are many), you still want to give the guy a hug and say, “What’s done is done.”

His scenes with McGee sparkle. You can almost feel the love between them. Their friendship feels genuine, even as it spirals down the toilet.

Hernandez gets to stretch a variety of acting muscles. He’s another charming character with a deep, dark side.

Arroyave plays another very complicated woman. She shines in her brief scenes.

Christina Nieves(Lulu) and Bryant Bentley (Junior) share an intimate moment. (Photo Credit: Pittsburgh Public Theater)

Nieves and Bentley aptly play their roles. It’s almost a perfect cast. 

Guirgis shows us the best of humanity and the worst of it, wrapped up in the same person. Each character is like a Little Debbie Snack Cake, delicious but not very good for you.

The set, designed by Michael Schweikardt, spins like a rotisserie chicken, revealing a beautifully rendered and overly spacious (it’s a plot point) Manhattan apartment with rich colors and bold textures.

Director Pamela Berlin keeps everything spinning as well. Kudos to her, the Public and McCorkle Casting for bringing Eugene Lee back to the Pittsburgh Stage (he was here for “How I Learned What I Learned”). 

“Between Riverside and Crazy” is a daring choice for the Public. It’s as different from “The Fantasticks” as you can get. It stirred a few patrons to leave at intermission, but if you can get past a little (actually a lot) of foul language, it’s a lovely treatise on truth, justice and the other American way…greed. 

– MB

“Between Riverside and Crazy” runs through December 11 at the Pittsburgh Public Theater’s O’Reilly Theater, 621 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. For more information, click here.


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