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Between Riverside and Crazy

It is all about timing. For example, who could have predicted a play written back in 2014, like the most recent dramedy by Stephen Adly Guirgis, Between Riverside and Crazy, now playing at Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s main stage, would be so politically charged and topical just a short two years later? This 2015 Pulitzer Prize-winning piece, directed by ensemble member Yasen Peyankov, negotiates the explosively controversial fine line between #blacklivesmatters and #bluelivesmatter, a full two years before either hashtags ever existed. For those who travel to the theater to escape the ever increasing harsh reality of the evening news and the world we live in, this piece’s first act will prove uncomfortably challenging to sit through. I empathically implore you to stay for the much lighter in tone and more comically driven second act. As a writer, Stephen Adly Guirgis often proves himself the champion of the underdog. This is the man who scribed Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train and The Motherf**ker with the Hat for goodness sake. So sit back and enjoy this dark comedy, not for an all encompassing answer to what ails society, but for the powerful mirror reflecting human behavior, which I believe was the playwright’s chief intention.

Between Riverside and Crazy

Our story centers around Walter “Pops” Washington (a remarkable Eamonn Walker) an everyman retired cop who lives with his adult son in a coveted, rent-controlled apartment in Riverside Drive, New York.  It is clear from the remarkably detail set, design by Collette Pollard, that Washington and his family have resided there since 1978. Pops has also opened his home to a trio of additional characters. Oswaldo (Victor Almanzar) an ex-con with a freshly devoted commitment to living clean, Junior (James Vincent Meredith) Pops’  jailbird, unemployed son, with a questionable source of income. “Don’t open this box, Pops” the patriarch is fiercely warned.  Finally, Lulu (Elena Marisa Flores) Junior’s loudmouth girlfriend, with the outward ambition of becoming an accountant, but with the demeanor of a street walker and a possible baby on the way. Add to this, a pestered, habitually barking dog, that we hear but never see. Between the introduction of this troika of sketchy housemates, and a daily dose of Jack Daniel’s spiked coffee for breakfast, we discover “Pops” Washington is an African-American 30-year NYPD veteran who was also the victim of an malicious, intentional shooting by a uniformed cop, while Pops was off duty cop in an afterhours seedy bar. Pops proclaimed he “shot everything black in the whole joint and somehow didn’t hit anything white.” Enraged and demanding justice, Washington logically sued, then has continued to refused every settlement offered to him from the city, because each deal settlement offered to him stipulated “no fault” in the shooting. This reality “word pill” Washington found too bitter to swallow. Fast forwarding eight years, the case is still pending. Sadly for “Pops,” the media has moved on, his story has lost its initial sizzle, and the offers from the city become less and less. What hasn’t weathered with time, Washington’s rage for the situation?

Between Riverside and Crazy

As the story unfolds, no one is what they appear to be. Pops’ previous partner, Detective O’Conner (Audrey Francis) and her new fiancé, Lt. Caro (Steppenwolf staple Tim Hopper) attempt to use her friendship and history with Washington to manipulate him to sign the final attempt at a financial settlement. It would seem Pops would maintain his rent controlled apartment and would also wipe out his son’s criminal record if he signs. A tempting offer, peppered with ripped-from –the-headlines dialog, “We’re all cops here, Walter. No Black. No White. Just Blue.” Ouch. All shades are reflected in Crazy’s never-ending barrage of deception, racism, and bureaucracy as plot twists, which fuels this engaging and topical dark comedy. Speaking of comedy, keep your eye out for Act 2’s visiting Church Lady (Lily Mojekwu) a vivacious and duplicitous volunteer, sent to engaged a lonely old shut in, but who will leave you howling in the isles. Needless to show, this show is very adult in concept, content and execution.

Between Riverside and Crazy

Between Riverside and Crazy is not an easy play to sit through, purposely so, yet I found it highly engaging, stunningly provocative, completely unapologetic, at times frightening, purposely challenging, then laugh out loud hilarious. It is remarkable how Steppenwolf continues to have it’s collective finger pointed both firmly and directly on the pulse of what is happening in the world. Their creative clairvoyance absolutely astounds. Add another remarkably performed and engaging jewel to their crown of great and brazen story telling. Between Riverside and Crazy sizzles with electricity from beginning to end. While the story’s actually ending stretches credibility paper thin, I dare anyone to not smile at Pops’ outcome.

Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s Between Riverside and Crazy is now playing through August 21, 2016

Stephen S. Best is currently a freelance writer for the Times Square Chronicles, covering the performing arts scene in the greater Chicagoland area. He has been a theater aficionado for years, attending his first live production, Annie, at the tender age of six. After graduating from Purdue University, Stephen honed his skills attending live theater, concerts and art installations in New York and Chicago. Stephen's keen eye and thorough appreciation for both theater patrons' time and entertainment dollar makes him a valuable asset and his recommendations key. Stephen currently lives in downtown Chicago.


Florence Welch, Martyna Majok, Rachel Chavkin and More On New Musical Gatsby Coming To A.R.T



Florence Welch Photo by De Wilde

Producers Amanda Ghost and Len Blavatnik for Unigram/Access Entertainment, Jordan Roth, and American Repertory Theater(A.R.T.) at Harvard University announced today that Gatsby, a brand-new musical stage adaptation of the legendary F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, will make its highly anticipated World Premiere at A.R.T. in 2024, and will be directed by Tony Award® winner Rachel Chavkin and choreographed by Tony Award winner Sonya Tayeh.

Rachel Chavkin Photo Credit Erik Tanner

Gatsby will feature music by Florence Welch, the Grammy Award-nominated international rock star of Florence + the Machine and Thomas Bartlett, the Oscar and Grammy Award nominee, with lyrics by Ms. Welch, and a book by Pulitzer Prize® winner Martyna Majok.

Martyna Majok by Josiah Bania

Gatsby will be produced at American Repertory Theater by special arrangement with Amanda Ghost and Len Blavatnik for Unigram/Access Entertainment, and Jordan Roth, in association with Robert Fox. Hannah Giannoulis serves as co-producer.

Sonya Tayeh

American Repertory Theater (Diane Paulus, Terrie and Bradley Bloom Artistic Director; Kelvin Dinkins, Jr., Executive Director) at Harvard University produces groundbreaking work to catalyze dialogue and transformation. Tony Award-winning and nominated productions include Jagged Little PillWaitressNatasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812; All the Way; The Glass Menagerie; Pippin; Once; and The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess. Its revival of 1776, a co-production with Roundabout Theatre Company, is currently touring nationally. Learn more at

Thomas Bartlett Photo Credit York Tillyer

Additional Gatsby news will be announced soon.

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Reading For Hunter Bell, Jeff Bowen and Ann McNamee New Musical Other World



Other World, a new musical with an original score and story by Tony Award Nominee Hunter Bell (book), Obie Award winner Jeff Bowen (music and lyrics), and singer-songwriter and author Ann McNamee(music and lyrics) will present invite-only staged readings on Thursday, March 16 and Friday, March 17 at Open Jar Studios in New York City. With direction by Jenn Rapp (The Illusionists Director/Choreographer) and choreography by Karla Puno Garcia (Tick, Tick … BOOM! film, Kennedy Center Honors), Other World is being developed in creative consultation with the five-time Academy Award winning WĒTĀ Workshop (The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies).

Hunter Bell, Jeff Bowen and Ann McNamee

One moment Sri and Lorraine are in a garage on Earth. The next, they’re unexpectedly transported into Sri’s favorite video game, Other World. Now trapped in the game and in a race against the clock, this unlikely pair must work together, discover their inner strengths, and connect with gifted gamers and astonishing avatars in order to survive and find a way home. With art direction provided by Academy Award–winning Wētā Workshop (The Lord of the RingsAvatar), this heartfelt, humorous musical explores the connections we make on- and off-line, while celebrating the families and friendships we need to thrive in any world. Join us for this spectacular, original, otherwordly adventure. Your journey begins…now!

The cast features Micah Beauvais (Sri), Bella Coppola (Lorraine), Ryan Andes (Roman/Antagon), Madeleine Doherty (Myra), Kaden Kearney (Tris), Brandi Porter (Temula), Mikaela Secada (Jamie), with Sojouner Brown, Elena Camp, Sommer Carbuccia, Laura Dadap, Seth Rettberg, Sherisse Springer, Blake Stadnik, Levin Valayil, and Jason Williams.

The creative team for the developmental presentation also features music direction by Amanda Morton (KPOP), casting by Paul Hardt Casting (Once Upon A One More Time), video design by Khristian Bork (Coco live at the Hollywood Bowl, Danny Elfman – Coachella), sound design by Hidenori Nakajo (Octet), and general management by Alchemy Production Group (The Music Man, Come From Away).  The Executive Producer is Lauren Tucker/Alchemy Production Group.

For more information about the show, visit

Hunter Bell (Book) earned an OBIE Award, a Drama League nomination, a GLAAD Media nomination, and a Tony nomination for Best Book of a Musical, all for the original Broadway musical [title of show]. Other credits include the books for Silence! The Musical (Lucille Lortel Nomination, Outstanding Musical), Now. Here. This. (Vineyard Theatre), Bellobration! (Ringling Bros. Circus), Villains Tonight! (Disney Cruise Lines), Found (Atlantic Theater, Drama Desk Nomination, Outstanding Book of a Musical), and Julie Andrews’ The Great American Mousical (Goodspeed). He is a co-creator of the web series “the [title of show] show” and has developed television with ABC Studios/ABC Television. Hunter is a proud graduate and distinguished alumnus of Webster University’s Conservatory of Theatre Arts, a member of the Dramatists Guild, Writers Guild, a MacDowell Fellow, and currently serves on the board of the Educational Theatre Association and Educational Theatre Foundation, national arts advocacy organizations representing theatre teachers and students.

Jeff Bowen (Music and Lyrics) wrote the music and lyrics for and starred in the Broadway musical [title of show] (OBIE Award) and Now. Here. This. Additionally, he has written music and lyrics for Now. Here. This. (Vineyard Theatre), Villains Tonight! (Walt Disney Company), and the theme songs for the web series “the [title of show] show” and “Squad ’85.” His songs can be heard on the original cast albums of [title of show], Now. Here. This., as well as Broadway Bares Openingsand Over the Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project. He is a proud member of ASCAP, AEA, Writers Guild, Dramatists Guild, and the National Audubon Society. He serves as a faculty member of the National Theatre Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center.

Ann McNamee(Music and Lyrics) received a B.A. from Wellesley College and a Ph.D. in Music Theory from Yale University, leading to a twenty-year career in teaching, choral conducting, and music research at Swarthmore College. After retiring as Professor Emerita, Ann composed for, sang, played keys, and toured with the Flying Other Brothers and Moonalice, both bands led by her husband Roger McNamee. She composed the majority of the songs on the Moonalice album that was part of T Bone Burnett’s nomination for Producer of the Year at the 2009 Grammy Awards. For the Lilith Fair tour in 2010, she fronted the band Ann Atomic. Another highlight was opening up for U2 at the Oakland Coliseum in November 2011. She retired from touring in 2012 in order to collaborate on musical theater projects full-time. Ann’s outside interests include co-founding the Haight Street Art Center, a community center/poster music/print shop to celebrate rock poster art in the Bay Area.

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Out of Town

The Avett Brothers Musical Swept Away Sails Into Arena Stage This Fall



Swept Away, the new musical written by Tony Award winner John Logan (book) and “America’s biggest roots band” (Rolling Stone), The Avett Brothers (music and lyrics), was announced today as part of the  2023/24 season at Arena Stage, Washington, DC (Molly Smith, Artistic Director; Edgar Dobie, Executive Producer).  Performances will begin November 25 and will continue through December 30. Tony Award winner Michael Mayer will direct the production as he had last year in the musical’s sold-out world premiere at Berkeley Rep. The Arena Stage engagement will feature an updated score with additional, never-before-heard songs. Swept Away is produced by Special Arrangement with Matthew Masten, Sean Hudock, and Madison Wells Live.

Swept Away
 is set in 1888, off the coast of New Bedford, MA. When a violent storm sinks their whaling ship, the four surviving souls — a young man in search of adventure, his older brother who has sworn to protect him, a captain at the end of a long career at sea, and a worldly first mate who has fallen from grace — each face a reckoning: How far will I go to stay alive? And can I live with the consequences?

Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater, under the leadership of Artistic Director Molly Smith and Executive Producer Edgar Dobie, is a national center dedicated to American voices and artists. Arena Stage produces plays of all that is passionate, profound, deep and dangerous in the American spirit, and presents diverse and ground-breaking work from some of the best artists around the country. Arena Stage is committed to commissioning and developing new plays and impacting the lives of over 10,000 students annually through its work in community engagement. Now in its eighth decade, Arena Stage serves a diverse annual audience of more than 300,000.

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