“Between Riverside and Crazy”

There must be something wrong with me.  We saw Stephan Adly Guirgis’ “Between Riverside and Crazy” at the Studio Theatre this afternoon.  Its run ends tonight.  It won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2015.  It’s a good play – but to me it was far from perfect.  (But the lead actor, Frankie Faison, is close to perfect.)

Faison’s character (Walter Washington – not the former DC mayor) is a 30-year veteran of the New York City police department, who was disabled when shot 6 times by another policeman.  He lives in his Riverside Drive apartment, protected by rent stabilization, his wife deceased, his one son troubled, his apartment lived in by a young ex-con for whom he is a father figure and a young woman, the girlfriend of his son.  He is bitter, angry, and alcoholic.  He has a suit pending for 8 years for damages, and has refused to accept any of the settlements offered by the city.  He either wants more or he wants the fight to continue.

None of his relationships work out, and Washington vacillates between charm and anger.  His ex-police partner, a white woman, with her white policeman fiance, try to convince him to settle with the city.  A rather over-the-top representative of his church tries to awaken his spiritual inside.

Guirgis is a very good wordsmith.  The play moves quickly, goes between tragedy and comedy, light and dark.  Holds your interest.  None of the characters are perfect – far from it.  Perhaps, this is realistic; I am not sure.  But I must say that there is something about this play that I didn’t like.  I didn’t find it realistic.  I did feel a bit manipulated, as is easy to feel in plays where the basis is racism, or the position of racial minorities in American society.  And, if I were black, I think I would feel the same.  I can’t be specific; I just felt to an extent uncomfortable.  And not in a comfortable way.

There must be something wrong with me.

By the way, I do think that Stephen Adly Guirgis is very talented and has written one of the most extraordinary plays I have seen, “The Last Days of Judas Iscariat”; in fact, I have seen a number of his plays, all of which I enjoyed.  And I enjoyed this one – except, as I have said, it left me a bit uncomfortable.  And, to repeat, there must be something wrong with me.

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