Between Riverside and Crazy

DramaWatch Weekly: An Equinox Mid-Monther

Spiders, Mermaids, and the joys of mid-run theater, when shows are gliding along at their heights

The date: March 21. The weather: rain, thunder, and sun. The shows: small ones opening, biggies mid-run. We’re over the Ides. We’ve driven out the snakes. But we await the full flowering of the resurrection. Will you meet me halfway in an Equinox Mid-Monther?

The Mermaid Hour, (previewed adeptly last week by TJ Acena), opens at Milagro mañana with a few utterly unique circumstances to recommend it: it’s hand-picked by the National New Play Network for a Rolling World Premiere; it’s directed by the masterful Sacha Reich (of Jewish Theatre Collaborative); and in an ongoing and hotly charged theater community conversation about who gets to play transgender characters, it’s something of a clap-back: cast as writ, with a trans adolescent actor in the lead. Represent.

Kevin Jones, Ben Newman, and Val Landrum in “Between Riverside and Crazy.” Photo: Russell J Young

Between Riverside and Crazy is mid-run at Artists Rep. By the same playwright as The Motherf-cker with the Hat (which I quite enjoyed), it’s resonating on many levels with Marty Hughley, who calls it “a deceptively complex and artfully constructed play, delivered here with terrific verve and attention to detail.”  Local luminary Kevin Jones stars as a curmudgeonly ex-cop clinging to his longtime apartment in a rapidly changing neighborhood and “fronting” that everything’s fine. Sounds relatable AF right about now.

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Crazy good on Riverside

The strivers and miscreants in Artists Rep's taut and slippery "Between Riverside and Crazy" crackle and pop with terrific verve

An apartment on Riverside Drive in Manhattan is the setting and in some ways the crux of Stephen Adly Guirgis’ 2015 Pulitzer-winning play Between Riverside and Crazy, currently getting a crackling Adriana Baer-helmed production at Artists Rep.

That geographical marker is important. A large, pre-WWII apartment in that highly desirable section of New York City has a lot of value. For the play’s central character, disgruntled ex-cop Walter “Pops” Washington, it’s his home of several decades, a place where he can shelter his ex-con son Junior and various friends. And, crucially, it’s on an increasingly rare rent-controlled lease. For the landlord, it’s a diamond in the rough, an apartment falling into disrepair but easily worth several times the current rent. And for city and police officials, we quickly learn, the property has turned into leverage in a long legal standoff over compensation for Pops’ being injured in a shooting by another cop.

Kevin Jones, Ben Newman, and Val Landrum in “Between Riverside and Crazy.” Photo: Russell J Young

And yet, something’s a little puzzling about that title, Between Riverside and Crazy. Whatever location that suggests is not a geographical one like “between Riverside and Broadway” or “between Riverside and the Hudson River.” Perhaps, for New Yorkers particularly, the title points to some sort of imagined behavioral terrain, between the posh conventionality a Riverside address connotes and some other, wilder impulses of human character. But who among Guirgis’ assemblage of strivers and miscreants and authority figures here is really “crazy”? There is depression, addiction, anger, and so forth, but there’s no “crazy.”

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DramaWatch Weekly: Hamilton-plus

Lin-Manuel Miranda's Broadway mega-hit grabs the spotlight. But Portland and Ashland stages are overflowing with other top bets, too.

Don’t look now, but the two-ton elephant’s about to plop down in the living room. That’s right: Hamilton, the touring version of the Broadway mega-hit, opens on Tuesday, March 20, in Portland’s Keller Auditorium for 24 performances through April 8, and if you don’t have your tickets yet – well, good luck. That pencils out to 72,000 available seats, and most of them are long gone.

So you’re on the outside looking in: How to score a ticket? Lottery, baby! Every performance will have 40 tickets available for 10 bucks each, and you can hit the lottery line for each show two days in advance, starting Sunday for opening night. Here’s the link. Or, you could go through one of the ticket-resale sites and offer your first-born child, your mother-in-law, and a case of Eyrie 1975 South Block Pinot noir.

Shoba Narayan, Ta’Rea Campbell and Nyla Sostre head for Portland with the “Hamilton” national touring company. Photo © Joan Marcus 2018

Veteran West Coast theater critic Misha Berson saw the company during its Seattle run before its Puddletown engagement and filed this report for ArtsWatch readers. “Hamilton comes at you at 100 miles per hour, a power vehicle running on all cylinders,” she writes. “It’s the theatrical equivalent of IMAX but all human, all live, and with none of the techno-tricks designed to hypnotize and overwhelm. What seduces you here is a group of mostly black actors in velvet breeches and ruffled shirts, singing ‘I’m not throwing away my shot!’ with a visceral intensity you can feel from the balcony, and an array of drifting, be-gowned young women exhorting you to ‘Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now’.”

Go ahead: Mortgage the house. Or you could get lucky in the lottery.

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