Stephen Adly Guirgis’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play’s Broadway premiere is a an absolute critical success. Featuring a memorable performance from Stephen McKinley Henderson and an ultra talented supporting cast, Between Riverside and Crazy is character-driven storytelling at its very best. Director Austin Pendleton has created a riveting production that is not to be missed.
The New York Times Review of Between Riverside and Crazy
[T]he astonishing Stephen Adly Guirgis play…opened on Monday in a Second Stage production at the Helen Hayes Theater. First seen Off Broadway in 2014 and in 2015 — after which it won the Pulitzer Prize for drama — it is only now receiving its Broadway debut, tied up in a big foul-mouthed holiday bow by the director Austin Pendleton. As there wasn’t much to improve, what you see is mostly the same, with Stephen McKinley Henderson (as Walter, the police officer) and Liza Colón-Zayas (as the Church Lady) brilliantly re-creating their roles, along with most of the rest of the original cast. … Along with anyone who can’t tolerate profanity, which is basically the play’s linguistic glue, they will have a hard time warming to a playwright who isn’t interested in telling us what’s right. He only wants to show us what’s real. Everyone should see it anyway, to experience the pleasure of a great cast making a shrimps-and-veal meal of the incredibly rich material, even as it flips between comedy and tragedy on its way to the truth in between.
New York Post Review of Between Riverside and Crazy
Guirgis’ compassionate play, directed with great care by Austin Pendleton, is also wildly funny — actually more hilarious than many recent flat-out comedies — and devilishly inappropriate. His dialogue rightly doesn’t try to clean up how cops and convicts might talk and it also establishes that nobody here is a saint. Common takes on his first major stage gig, successfully and admirably, in Broadway’s smallest house at just 597 seats and in a supporting role. Although the play isn’t Junior’s — it’s Walter’s — there’s complexity behind the rapper-actor’s warmth. … And Colón and Liza Colón-Zayas, as a church lady who visits Walter, are gifted comedic talents. … However, it’s Henderson who shakes the stage … [and] gives the performance of his career and the Broadway season. He makes the complicated Walter a millions things at once — adorable, frightening, calculating, indifferent, reserved, commanding, a stand-up comic, a boozer — that combine into one indomitable theatrical force. It’s not the sort of showy, speechifying role that we usually laud out of habit. Often, Walter simply watches on. But as played by Henderson, he’s a man you won’t soon forget.
TimeOut Review of Between Riverside and Crazy
In veteran director Austin Pendleton’s well-balanced production, they are brought to life by an ensemble of actors whose comfort with one another is tangible: Aside from the rapper-turned-actor Common, who makes a solid Broadway debut, the cast has been with this play since its Off Broadway debut at the Atlantic Theater in 2014 and subsequent extension at Second Stage (which is also behind this delayed transfer). The earthy Rispoli and the divine Colón-Zayas, in particular, are unimprovable in their tricky roles. But it is Henderson who, as Between Riverside and Crazy’s gravitational center, holds it all together. He’s a perfect combination of rent and controlled, and his deceptively natural star turn is the twisted, generous soul of the play.