Absorbing American Story Arc

“Son: that girl, she a nice girl, but she don’t study no accounting.  Her lips move when she read the horoscope – that ain’t the mark of a future accountant!.”



Danny Sapani as Walter and Sebastian Orozco as Oswaldo. (Photo: Johan Persson)

Walter “Pops” Washington (Danny Sapani) is a black NY cop retired after being “accidentally” shot six times by a white rookie policeman.  He is a long standing tenant in an apartment block in Riverside Avenue built for the railway and at his controlled rent, worth ten times more on the lettings market.  In this large apartment “Pops” has a collection of house sharers who often pay no rent. 

The wonder of Stephen Adly Guirgis’s play Between Riverside and Crazy  is the number of shifts of direction between scenes which make for a totally different insight on the characters we have just met.  We start at the dining table with the comedy of family banter between Walter and his tenants who call him “Dad”.  Oswaldo (Sebastian Orozco) is a drug addict meant to be in recovery whom Walter is encouraging to go to college.  Walter sits in his dead wife’s wheelchair not because he is disabled but because it is so comfortable. 

Walt’s son Junior is there bringing in boxes of mysterious merchandise and Junior’s girlfriend Lulu (Tiffany Gray) who might not be the brightest candle in the church. Oswaldo is describing emotional eating to Walter.  We hear that Walter owes money and is dragging his heels in settling his legal claim against the City for damages from the shooting eight years ago.  Junior accuses his father of not reaching an agreement in time for him to buy private health care for his dying wife.

judith Roddy as Detective Audrey O'Connor, Daniel Lapaine as Lieutenant Dave Caro, Danny Sapani as Walter, Martins Imhangbe as Junior and Tiffany Gray as Lulu (Photo: Johan Persson)

In the next scene, set on the bridge, Walter changes his attitude towards Lulu when she tells him she is pregnant with Junior’s child.  Walter realises he could have a completely new interest in life, that of a grandfather.  In another change of scene, we meet Audrey (Judith Roddy) once Walter’s partner in the police force.  “Drop the civil case, Walter,” she says.

Max Jones’ set is the apartment with a boxed bedroom at the rear, a Christmas tree with lights and the jazz from composer Richard Hammarton provides plenty of Riverside Avenue (formerly Riverside Drive) atmosphere.  Guirgis’s play has so many hints about place, the old fashioned firm of Jewish solicitors that Walter’s wife worked for and who are handling the civil case and the predatory real estate landlords anxious to repossess the apartment, the nearby railway bridge and the proximity of the river.


Danny Sapani as Walter and Ayesha Antoine as Church Lady (Photo: Johan Persson)

At the end of Act One, Oswaldo comes back to the apartment desperate for drug money and doing damage.  Act Two brings another shift when we have a new character Church Lady (Ayesha Antoine) who arrives to tell Walter that he is much loved by God and who manifests this in an unexpected way.  Walter is in bed with his co-dependent dog. 

The penultimate scenes are pure negotiation as Audrey and her fiancé Dave Caro are tasked with squeezing a settlement out of Walter but again Guirgis turns the high stakes tables unexpectedly. Experiencing this play sees us caught in up fast dialogue which you need to listen carefully to.  The ending is unexpected and unanticipated. 

Stephen Adly Guirgis’s writing of his characters gives excellent guidelines for the actors, none of whom disappoints.  Danny Sapani is of course the star here with his refusal to accept the amount being offered by the City for his injuries.  Walter is an interesting character hanging onto the apartment and yet not facing up to the mounting bills or the shortcomings of his house mates. His ex-colleague Audrey has divided loyalties to her ex-partner and her fiancé. 

I found Between Riverside and Crazy absolutely fascinating and I want to see more plays by Guirgis.  It took a long time to reach Broadway after being on, off Broadway in 2014 and 15 but that was at least partly down to the pandemic.  Hampstead Theatre have done the playwright proud in this gripping production.

Danny Sapani as Walter, Judith Roddy as Detective Audrey O'Connor and Daniel Lapping as Lieutenant Dave Caro. (Photo: Johan Persson)

Production Notes

Between Riverside and Crazy

Written by Stephen Adly Guirgis

Directed by Michael Longhurst



Ayesha Antoine

Daniel Lapaine

Danny Sapani

Judith Roddy

Martins Imhangbe

Sebastian Orozco

Tiffany Gray


Director: Michael Longhurst

Designer:  Max Jones

Lighting Designer: Anna Watson

Sound Designer and Composer:

Richard Hammarton

Movement director:  Imogen Knight
Fight director: Bret Yount



Running Time: Two hours 20 minutes

with an interval

Booking to 15th June 2024


Hampstead Theatre 

Eton Avenue

Swiss Cottage

London NW3 3EU

Phone: 020 7722 9301



Tube: Swiss Cottage


by Lizzie Loveridge at

Hampstead Theatre Upstairs

on 13th May 2024