'Between Riverside and Crazy' review: Stephen Adly Guirgis does it again

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(L-R) Stephen McKinley Henderson, Ray Anthony Thomas and (L-R) Stephen McKinley Henderson, Ray Anthony Thomas and Victor Almanzar in Atlantic Theater Company's production of BETWEEN RIVERSIDE AND CRAZY, written by Stephen Adly Guirgis and directed by Austin Pendleton. Performances begin July 10, 2014 at the Linda Gross Theater (336 West 20th Street). Photo Credit: Kevin Thomas Garcia

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REVIEW

What a wonderful new play has opened Off-Broadway at the Atlantic Theater Company, right in the dead of summer and without the kind of movie-star names that would catapult it directly to Broadway. But this is a genuine original, one that deserves to be seen by anyone hungry for a smart, exuberantly funny urban dramedy with a spirit as shrewd and forgiving as its motor-mouth language is wild and lush.

"Between Riverside and Crazy" is the latest by Stephen Adly Guirgis, best known for his unprintable Broadway hit, "The -- With the Hat," but also treasured for the five plays directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman, his cohort at the LAByrinth Theater Company.

Almost all the seven-actor cast, keenly directed with layers of eccentricity and generosity by Austin Pendleton, come with stylistic expertise from the LAB and/or August Wilson plays. Stephen McKinley Henderson is riveting, a master of understated savvy as the cranky, aging ex-cop and heavy-drinking widower whose sprawling rent-controlled Upper West Side apartment is in the sights of real estate developers.

His place (displayed on a turntable in all its shabby lavishness by designer Walt Spangler) has become a refuge for the sweet, dangerous buddy (Victor Almanzar) of his disillusioned ex-con son (Ray Anthony Thomas). The women -- Rosal Colón and Liza Colón-Zayas -- luxuriate in delightfully comfortable womanliness, while Michael Rispoli and Elizabeth Canavan are more than cardboard white people as friendly cops with an agenda.

Some of the dialogue was a little hard to hear at a recent preview. With Guirgis' goofy locutions and come-from-behind wisdom, we really don't want to miss a word.


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WHAT "Between Riverside and Crazy"

WHERE Atlantic Theater Company, 336 W. 20th St.

INFO $65; 866-811-4111; atlantictheater.org

BOTTOM LINE Terrific, unpredictable new play

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