Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
American Stage in St. Petersburg is presenting a pretty much perfect production of a brilliant play, Stephen Adly Guirgis' Between Riverside and Crazy.
This production is headlined by L. Peter Callender, heretofore known as a director (Jitney, Joe Turner's Come and Gone and A Raisin in the Sun). I cannot wait to have the opportunity to see this play again, there is so much meat in it, but I doubt that any future actor in this part could better Mr. Callender's assumption. Right after this production ends, he is off to San Jose to play this role in a production there. Everyone else in the supporting cast is on the same levelthis cast is simply living on each other's oxygen. Enoch King is Junior, and he holds his own in the father son confrontation, where a lesser actor might not. Vickie Daignault as ex-partner O'Connor and Ricky Wayne as Lt. Caro weave in and out of their characters' manipulations without losing audience sympathy. Vanesa Rendon is emotionally hollow as Junior's girlfriend Lulu, except with Popsexactly what the character calls for. Donovan Whitney, an acting and production apprentice in American Stage's apprenticeship program, does a really fine job as Oswaldo, delineating his character's fear of his father, mixed with a desire for his acceptance. Sara Oliva is Church Lady, a role that if less skillfully acted could become a stereotype, but Guirgis offers enough strong writing that Ms. Oliva does not allow that to happen.
Benjamin T. Ismail, who has been an important presence at American Stage under Stephanie Gularte's regime, provides a strong directorial hand. His bio says he has recently relocated to St. Petersburg from California. Lucky us, the patrons of American Stage. Benjamin T. Ismail is also the sound designer, Jerid Fox the production designer (costumes and set?), and properties master Ryan E. Finzelber, playing hooky from the multiple other theaters where he is a regular presence, is lighting designer. All of these elements are equal to the best this theater has offered in the past, which is a high level of achievement.
Fall 2018 is turning out to be a memorable time in this region, with several productions representative of better than the best their respective companies have offered, and American Stage reaches for that same level with Between Riverside and Crazy. I can't imagine any regular Tampa Bay theatergoer missing this and not regretting it later.
Between Riverside and Crazy, through November 5, 2018, at American Stage, 163 Third Street North, St. Petersburg FL. For more information, visit www.americanstage.org.
Cast (in order of appearance):
*=Member of Actors' Equity Association