A simple apartment, with an old couch, rogue white leather ottoman, leading into a kitchen area with discarded prescription bottles and an almost empty bottle of whiskey. Newspapers surround the floor near the side tables, one littered with porcelain angels and a crystal bowl toting hard candy, and the other dominated by a record player and stacks of sleeves. The wall is covered in family photos, with that 90’s camera flash blaring, and some sketches of family dogs. There’s definitely a mess on display, but the mess is loving, perhaps bittersweet, or just not taken care of properly. The biggest nod to the latter is a Charlie Brown-esque Christmas tree, leaning against the wall, and blanketed by more newspaper and a few loose cans of Alpo. Unfortunately, this apartment, and the sentiment behind is, will soon be under threat.
Redtwist Theatre Twists Guirgis
Continuously producing classic works from the modern era, Redtwist Theatre brings a familiar, yet altogether strange world onto its stage with Stephen Adly Guirgis’s Pulitzer Prize winner, Between Riverside and Crazy. The play is set distinctly in New York City, and follows Walter, a retired NYC cop, holding onto his apartment in the midst of a racial discrimination lawsuit he’s levied against the NYPD for being accidentally shot. His son, Junior, has just gotten out of jail, and is only one of the few ex-cons/questionable individuals that Walter has offered his home to in their time of need. From there, Guirgis takes an easy, relationship deepening first act into a high-octane, story altering second act, which will surprise most theatre-goers if they’re not familiar with the script. The dialogue in said script is sharp, and biting when it needs to be, or when it's talking about tough topics. Fans of Bruce Norris’s Clybourne Park will find the same level of stimulating discussion and exploration of contemporary racism, and those who know Guirgis’s Motherf***** with the Hat or The Last Days of Judas Iscariot should definitely grab a ticket.
Flies on the Wall
In this writer's view, the experience seeing the show is enhanced drastically by the intimacy of the space, and how this intimate space is handled throughout by director Rinska Carrasco-Prestinary. In many heated exchanges and passionate moments in the show, one could easily see the saliva spraying, which, to this hungry theatre-goer, was absolutely ideal. One instant, you’re mere feet away from a full on sexual encounter, and the next, you’re watching vomit drip from an actor’s lips and spewed as they blubber. Less adventurous drama fans might want to steer clear, because the audience is right in the middle of the action the entire run.
This production of Between Riverside and Crazy shines particularly in the rich characters that the entire ensemble creates, at least to this humble viewer. Adam Bitterman’s stoic and distinctive New York Police Lieutenant sets the world of the play almost more than the carefully detailed set does, immediately ending any question of where the audience is as soon as he enters. His extended and passionate rant over the failings of Rudy Giuliani is particularly guffaw-inducing, especially considering his current position in politics. Gabrielle Lott-Rogers single-handedly changes the entire course of the play with her Brazilian Church Lady. To avoid spoilers, let’s just say that her first scene is quite the enlightening experience for everyone involved. This is not even to mention Kenneth Johnson’s perpetually stubborn Walter, Almanya Narula’s ditzy yet loveable Lulu, or Johnny Garcia’s unstable portrayal of recovering drug addict Oswaldo. Those who are wary of famous Broadway plays lacking in their transfer to other regions, or the acting suffering in reproductions, should rest easy thanks to this cast.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
Kenneth D. Johnson
Kevin Tre'Von Patterson
KC Karen Hill
Sissy Anne Quaranta
Nicholas James Schwartz
Christian A. Kurka
1044 W Bryn Mawr
Now thru Sunday, February 10
Thu, Fri, Sat, 7:30pm; Sun, 3pm