If you think it’s impossible to maintain a degree of subtlety while stabbing someone with a dagger, just look at the opening moments of Stephen McKinley Henderson. between riverside and crazy, The object of their annoyance is Victor Almanzar, who is noisily cracking almonds on the kitchen table. The play begins with no words – just an arctic glare that laughs. And there’s more where the laughs came from—a pleasant surprise for a drama filled with grim urban realities and a steady stream of profanity.
Second Stage has upgraded this Off-Broadway opus — a 2014 Pulitzer Prize winner by Stephen Adley Gurgis — and set it at Broadway’s smallest theater, the Helen Hayes, through February 12. “Theatre helps,” Henderson insists, the intimacy of it. “It’s the ideal Broadway house for this play. Second Step was smart enough to get it.
the story is central Henderson’s character, Walter Washington, except a retired constable whose wife is dead Struggling to hold onto one of the last great rent-stabilized apartments on Riverside Drive. He allows an assortment of lunatics who have various ties to live with his son rent-free.
This revival is a reunion for six of the seven original cast members. “I’ve been in a lot of terrible outfits before—substandardfor one — but I embrace this cast,” enthralls Henderson. “Being together once, then running away, and then coming back together again seven or eight years later — very rarely do you do that.” Let’s see a show that’s been able to pull a company back like that.”
A newcomer to the cast is also a newcomer to the theater. Making his stage bow as Henderson’s son Junior is rapper and actor Common, who already has two Grammys and an Oscar (for the song “Glory”, which he and John Legend co-wrote). Selma, Here he acquitted himself well, honoring Junior with unexpected kindness, so an EGOT isn’t out of the question.
It doesn’t bother Henderson one bit that Common gets the only entrant applause of the evening. “After working with Denzel Washington fence And get on stage with him, you know what it’s like to be on hold for a very long time before he can speak,” he says. “I have nothing but respect and admiration and affection for Common. He comes to work politely.
The title of the play refers to exactly where Walter Washington finds himself. Henderson says, “Walter was a good cop, but his heart wasn’t in it.” “He would forgive people things. He had empathy in places where it would have paid off for being tough. He had been out of his son’s life for a long time, so finally having something positive to do with him brought him back home.” These are the people.
Junior has just got out of prison and is already smuggling stolen goods out of the bedroom. His crazy girlfriend, Lulu, claims to be in accounting school but may be a prostitute. And the aforementioned almond-cruncher, Osvaldo, is a backsliding drug addict given to skull-crunching.
Guests in the apartment bring additional conflicts. Walter’s old patrol partner and her aspiring police-lieutenant boyfriend want her to sign a lawsuit filed against the police department. Eight years ago, Walter was somewhere he shouldn’t have been—a late-night criminal lair—and was shot six times by a white cop. Recently widowed, Walter mourns in his wife’s old wheelchair, wondering how to solve the case and find an amicable exit from Riverside Drive.
between riverside and crazy It seems stronger and more urgent in its current revival. Henderson said, “I think the main thing is what the country has been doing since we did it.” “Stephen was prescient in some of the things that he brought. When we were performing the show in 2014, that thing went down in Ferguson, Missouri.
That incident—the shooting death of an 18-year-old black man, Michael Brown, by a white police officer, and the protests and unrest that followed—was one of the events that sparked the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I think maybe we were able to go a little deeper into the company and the cast,” Henderson says. “Our director, Austin Pendleton, sorta asked us this time. Once the show won the Pulitzer, he knew it was worth mining for literary value—not in terms of making it rare or anything. For didn’t need much pyrotechnics, so he made us talk to each other—in some classes to actually communicate with each other, and in other classes, he’d say, ‘Go on, play this and Have fun.'”
Gurgis has built a shape-shifting mechanism into his characters. They all start as one thing and end up as another. Henderson explains, “It’s not with an attempt to deceive the audience but to explore and reveal the complexity of all human beings.” “No one is all good or all bad. We are all works in progress. You can see one side of a person at first because he usually presents his best side. Then, after you’ve been with him a while, You got to know him better.”
Henderson admits that he feels quite differently about his character now than he originally did. (He committed to the part – his biggest to date on stage – when Guiris’ script was only 15 pages old.)
“This time,” he says, “I’m more concerned about what it was like for my son to be the son of a cop like me. Before, I was really focused more on being a widower and that How did that make me feel, just lost my wife. But this time I’m focusing more on how much of a burden it can be for a young African-American man to have a police father in the context of his growing up It was some of those, and then I also lost a nephew on the streets and I had to deal with the police department trying to find out who killed my nephew. So I realized Black There is a lot to be done to make Lives Matter clear. Some matters get more attention than others – unless you really are. And sadly, this applies to medical care as well. If you have a loved one in a facility, you need to make sure you visit them because they can easily be put in a warehouse. Ta is
The first time around Off-Broadway, Henderson took home the OB. Now, blessed by Broadway, a Tony is within its bounds and replete with happy critical confetti like “stunning,” “titanic,” “brilliant human,” “deceptively natural,” “a perfect combination of farce and controlled.” Appreciable. It’s a great performance from a seasoned character actor, elegantly economical.
Henderson tends to dirt-kicking gorgeous complements like this one. “I tell you,” he tells you, “I am very glad to be doing work—and glad to be doing work that is being appreciated and universally accepted.”
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