Thursday, November 29, 2018

Unusual path to improvement in 'Between Riverside and Crazy'

Circumstances for a bitter ex-cop in dire straits improve through legal as well as nonconventional ways in Stephen Adly Guirgis’ Pulitzer Prize-winning “Between Riverside and Crazy,” presented by San Jose Stage Company.

He’s Walter “Pops” Washington (L. Peter Callender), who’s about to lose his rent-controlled apartment on New York City’s Riverside Drive because he’s violating his lease.

He was forced to retire from the NYPD eight years ago after being shot six times by a fellow officer. Instead of accepting the department’s settlement offer, he engaged an attorney to fight it. Since then, his wife has died.

Still, he has opened his apartment to three people he calls guests. One is his son, Junior (Rondrell McCormick), an ex-con who still deals in stolen merchandise.

Another is Junior’s sexy, pleasant but dense girlfriend, Lulu (Tiffany Tenille). Finally there’s another ex-con and recovering alcoholic-drug addict, Oswaldo (Juan Amador).

They all live there rent-free and call their benefactor Dad. They all urge him to accept the settlement.

Also urging him to accept are his former partner, Detective Audrey O’Connor (Allison F. Rich), and her fiancĂ©, the pompous Lt. Caro (George Psarras).

The real turning point, however, arrives via the Church Lady (Damaris Divito), whose visit ends with a highly unusual seduction.

The outcome leads to reconciliation between Walter and Junior and a new life for Walter.

Well directed by Jeffrey Lo, the strong cast is led by the ever-reliable Callender, whose Walter can be both acerbic and humorous. The others also are outstanding.

The set by Christopher Fitzer reflects Walter’s sad situation with a lighted Christmas tree even though it’s several months later.

Costumes by Ashley Garlick, lighting by Michael Johnson and sound by Steve Schoenbeck complement the production.

With its expletives and adult situations, this is not for children. Because the company’s theater is so intimate, it’s also more intense than the noteworthy production by American Conservatory Theater in 2015. Nevertheless, it’s worthwhile for adults.

Running about two hours and 10 minutes with one intermission, “Between Riverside and Crazy” will continue through Dec. 16 at San Jose Stage Company, 490 S. First St., San Jose.

For tickets and information, call (408) 283-7142 or visit

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