Between Riverside and Crazy Review

Hampstead Theatre – until 15th June 2024

Reviewed by Celia Armand Smith


In this revival of Stephen Adly Guirgis’s 2014 play, we are transported to the rent controlled Manhattan apartment of Walter, an ex cop filled with booze and bitterness, and who is living with a carousel of characters all of whom have their own problems. When we meet Walter (Danny Sapani), he is 8 years into a battle with the NYPD after being shot six times when off duty by a white rookie police officer, and he is not giving up. His former partner, Audrey (Judith Roddy), now with a desk job, is trying to convince him to settle the suit, with pressure from her police lieutenant fiance Dave (Daniel Lapaine) who is trying to get into the city’s good books despite the obvious institutionalised racism at play. It’s an election year after all.

Not one of the characters is who they seem on the surface. Walter is not the great police officer or husband he would have us believe, and his son Junior (Martins Imhangbe) is running a dubious business out of his bedroom. Juniors ditsy girlfriend Lulu (Tiffany Gray in an impressive profession stage debut), has a chequered past, and their seemingly sweet friend Oswaldo (Sebastian Orozco) is existing on a knife edge, ready to topple at the drop of a desperate hat. A much talked about visitor from the church, known only as Church Lady (Ayesha Antoine) offers him a chance at spiritual salvation via unusual means. Under direction from Michael Longhurst, the entire cast are entertaining and highly watchable, but Sapani, Antoine and Gray are the most memorable in their roles, bringing life and laughs to their characters.

The production design by Max Jones is a strange mix of domestic setting, streetscape, and rooftop. Some of the elements like the brittle and brown Christmas tree are beautiful and capture perfectly how stagnant Walter’s life has become. There is a bedroom in a box at the back which swivels, flips, and develops as the story progresses, however there are times when it unfortunately feels like a heavy distraction.

There are some minor blips in this play, but they don’t get in the way of Between Riverside and Crazy being an entertaining and poignant look at the life of those failed by their own actions, the people around them, and the systems they exist in.