Tag Archives: Stephen Adly Guirgis

Smash Hit LA Premiere ‘Between Riverside and Crazy’ extends to January 26 at Fountain Theatre

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Montae Russell, Joshua Bitton, Lesley Fera, Marisol Miranda, Matthew Hancock.

The Fountain Theatre’s acclaimed Los Angeles Premiere of the Pulitzer Prize winning play Between Riverside and Crazy by Stephen Adly Guirgis will extend its sold-out run to January 26, 2020. The original cast will remain intact.

The performance schedule continues to be Friday 8pm, Saturday 2pm & 8pm, Sunday 2pm and Monday 8pm (Pay What You Want). More info/Get Tickets 

Over a dozen rave reviews:

THE PULITZER-WINNING PLAY YOU MUST SEE IN L.A.” — Los Angeles Times

REWARD[S] US WITH THE RAREST OF GIFTS: the pleasure of a raffish grace where you least expect to find it.”— Cultural Weekly

SUPERBLY ACTED… The Fountain Theatre has done itself proud again.” — Hollywood Progressive

SPLASH SELECTION… a superbly directed, acted, and produced must-see show.” — LA Splash

HUMOR AND WORDPLAY AND FANTASTIC MUSIC POWERFUL PERFORMANCES” — Larchmont Buzz

“A thoughtful exploration of family, forgiveness, and deciding what is important when life has not gone the way you imagined… led by a TOUR DE FORCE from Russell, who brings the enigmatic Pops to life with impressive complexity.” — On Stage and Screen

NEEDS TO BE SEEN… sometimes hilarious, sometimes agonizing… a seamless, breathtaking ensemble” — People’s World

OUTSTANDING… laugh lines abound… deals with profound issues of the human condition.” — Beverly Cohn, Santa Monica Mirror

WOW!SENSATIONAL… Contemporary play-writing at its most original and Los Angeles theater at its finest.” —Stage Scene LA

SCINTILLATING… an exciting, engrossing piece of theatre with a cast of seasoned pros.”  Theatre Notes

BRILLIANT DIRECTION… [A] SUPERB CAST“—Theatre Spoken Here

HILARIOUSLY OUTRAGEOUS and delightfully off-kilter dialogue… one of out city’s best ensemble casts” — Ticket Holders LA

FEARLESS… a brutally honest understanding of human emotions fully on display by a talented cast of seven.” — Culver City News

Lesley Fera: The intimacy of the Fountain’s ‘Between Riverside and Crazy’ is “magical”

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Actress Lesley Fera hails acclaimed play ‘Between Riverside and Crazy’ as beautiful and timely

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Director Guillermo Cienfuegos finds family and forgiveness in ‘Between Riverside and Crazy’

Guillermo Cienfuegos

Director Guillermo Cienfuegos in the Fountain Cafe.

by Guillermo Cienfuegos

How the Los Angeles premiere of Between Riverside and Crazy, this great, Pulitzer Prize winning play by Stephen Adly Guirgis managed to fall into my hands, I’ll never know. But I’m grateful for it. I feel so fortunate to be given the opportunity. And to direct it with this cast, at this theatre, is an embarrassment of blessings.

First of all I’m drawn to how funny and true the play is. There’s no better way to impart to an audience some essential truths about what it is to be human than while you’re making them laugh. I find Guirgis’ gift of being able to show us these flawed and damaged people in such a funny and loving way very inspiring.

Also as a Cuban, the play puts me in mind of a lot of Catholic imagery from my youth, including Santeria traditions. It makes me think of the Beatitudes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of God”. Those are the characters in this play. The world may see them as junkies and drunks and ex cons and other outsiders of society – but they’re just children of God.

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Matthew Hancock and Marisol Miranda.

I’m also drawn to the play because of my father, who I called Papi. My father was a lot like Pops, the main character of the play – he’s fighting wars on many fronts, the largest of which could be with his own ego. And he’s trying to hold on to whatever control over his life he still has. But it’s in the surrender that one wins and finds grace.

The play deals with a lot of big issues – grief, alcoholism, policing, gentrification. But I think it’s about family, forgiveness and redemption.

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Actor Montae Russell gets in the zone for ‘Between Riverside and Crazy’ at the Fountain Theatre

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Montae Russell in “Between Riverside and Crazy” at the Fountain Theatre.

By Darlene Donloe

Montae Russell is well known throughout Los Angeles theater circles for playing meaty roles. He’s played Charlie “Bird” Parker in Bird Lives!, Memphis in Two Trains Running and Elmore in a production of King Hedley II. He also played Mister on Broadway in King Hedley II opposite Viola Davis and Leslie Uggams.

Up next for the veteran thespian is a complicated, determined man named Walter “Pops” Washington who has declared war on almost everything in the Stephen Adly Guirgis 2015 Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy-drama Between Riverside and Crazy, opening October 19 at the Fountain Theatre in Hollywood.

Russell, a Pittsburgh native is ready to take on the role. While talking to him about the show and “Pops”, the 50-something, married (Tonia), father of one, walked around a local park to let the imagery of the play and the character “sink in.”  It’s a process, he said allows him to be “closer to where I need to be” when he hits the stage.

Russell’s first acting role came in the seventh grade when he played Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. His first professional play was in the off-Broadway production of Three Ways Home at the Astor Place Theater in New York.

Eventually he brought his talent to Los Angeles where he became a respected film, television and theater actor.

A highly sought after actor, Russell had to decide between doing August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean and Between Riverside and Crazy. He said it was a hard decision, but he read something in the “Pops” character that spoke to him.

In Between Riverside and Crazy, the 2015 Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy-drama by Stephen Adly Guirgis, ex-cop and recent widower Walter ‘Pops’ Washington has made a home for his newly paroled son in his sprawling, rent-controlled New York City apartment on Riverside Drive. But now the NYPD is demanding his signature to close an outstanding lawsuit, the landlord wants him out, the liquor store is closed, and the church is on his back — leaving Pops somewhere between Riverside… and crazy.

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Montae Russell and Victory Anthony in “Between Riverside and Crazy”

I recently caught up with Russell to discuss his role in Between Riverside and Crazy.

DD:  In your own words, describe Between Riverside and Crazy.

MR: I really can’t describe it because I’m in the midst of it. Well, from my character’s perspective,  he was a cop who was shot by a white cop eight years ago. The cop overreacted when he saw black people in a bar. My character is in a battle with NYPD. He’s living in a rent-controlled apartment on Riverside Drive. The landlord wants him out so he can charge more rent.

But my character is dug in. He’s not backing down.   His son is an ex-con. He is fighting for his son. Every father wants his son to become a man. He is also fighting a war with himself. He has war with a lot of people. He has a battle with the bottle and his body. He has stress and strife.  There are external forces and an internal battle within himself. Sometimes it’s not about annihilating your opponent. Sometimes you just have to sign a truce.

DD: In what way are you like Pop and in what way are you the furthest from Pop?

MR: I’m a fighter, but I don’t have as many wars. I have a stubborn streak. I don’t have multiple wars, though. I don’t have people coming at me as he does. But, I can understand what it would be like. I respect the character. I just fight differently. 

DD: Why did you want to play this part?

MR: When I read it, I cracked up. A lot of things about the character made me laugh. He is raging a war with God, or with his beliefs because of all the things that have happened. You can’t win that war.  It’s a very hilarious play. Pops is pulling no punches. He doesn’t care. He is the master of his domain. He’s a very funny cat. He’s not a rabble-rouser. He’s not an activist. He’s a conservative – but not in a social way – more of an interpersonal way. He’s a traditional man, an old school man. He comes from a time when you controlled your emotions.

DD: How did you go about developing Pop?

MR: It’s a day-by-day thing. We’ll be developing until the end of the play in December. Different stuff is revealed each time you crack open the script. There is constant tweaking.

He’s not funny, Ha, Ha. He’s funny concerning his perspectives. Living like that can cause problems. You have to give a fuck at some point. You have to give a fuck about something.

DD: Have you ever been between Riverside and crazy?

MR:  You would have to ask the people around me.

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Montae Russell, Joshua Bitton, Lesley Fera, Marisol Miranda, Matthew Hancock.

DD: By what criteria do you decide to do a show?

MR: It has to be a challenge. I have to think I can bring something to it. It’s about what speaks to me. I was supposed to do Gem of the Ocean. I was going to play Caesar. Both shows were going up at the same time. I opted to do this instead. It’s difficult to turn down a role like Caesar. It would have also been difficult to turn down this role.

DD: You’ve played a lot of characters. What role did you nail?

MR: I try to do that all the time. I enjoyed playing Memphis in Two Trains Running. August Wilson front-loads his characters with a lot of stuff they are dealing with. The character challenged me. It felt good that I concurred it. The stuff he has to live through. His backstory – all of that comes into the show.  You’re responsible for the backstory even if it doesn’t come up in the play.

DD:  How do you prepare to go on stage?  Any rituals?

MR: I gotta be at the theater at least 45 minutes before I’m supposed to be there. I have to have food in my stomach to power through the show. It’s just like a sporting event. You can’t keep running back to the locker room. I like to warm up my voice. I warm up my diction and I stretch.  I need to be by myself and get in my space. I like to get in my zone.

DD:  Why did you want to be an actor?

MR: A lot of people today don’t know what they want to do. I was blessed at 13 – that’s when I knew. From there, I got green lights all the way. One job led to another. August Wilson wrote my letter of recommendation to get into Rutgers. He reached back.

DD: What happens to you when you’re on stage?

MR: It allows you to go to another world. Your imagination has to buy it. It’s the same concept when doing a show. We are on stage being looked at by an audience. That to me is fun. It’s nice to get away from the real world and step into someone else’s shoes for a while.

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This post originally appeared on Donloe’s Lowdown

VIDEO: Actress Lesley Fera says ‘Between Riverside and Crazy’ is “incredible.” Don’t miss it!

Video: Matthew Hancock is home at the Fountain in ‘Between Riverside and Crazy’

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VIDEO: How did playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis get idea for ‘Between Riverside and Crazy’?

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PHOTOS: First rehearsal for Pulitzer Prize winner ‘Between Riverside and Crazy’ at Fountain Theatre

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Liza Fernandez, Joshua Bitton, Guillermo Cienfuegos, Victor Anthony, Lesley Fera, Montae Russell and Marisol Miranda

What happens when you mix a Pulitzer Prize winning script, a company of phenomenal actors and a skilled director together in one room? You get magic.  From the moment the first lines of Stephen Adly Guirgis’ funny and powerful Between Riverside and Crazy were spoken at Wednesday night’s first rehearsal, all knew they were in for a wild and joyous ride.

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In Gurigis’ profane and tender tale, ex-cop and recent widower Walter “Pops” Washington and his newly paroled son Junior have spent a lifetime living between Riverside and crazy. But now, the NYPD is demanding his signature to close an outstanding lawsuit, the landlord wants him out, the liquor store is closed—and the church won’t leave him alone. When the struggle to keep one of New York City’s last great rent-stabilized apartments collides with old wounds, sketchy new houseguests, and a final ultimatum, it seems that the old days may be dead and gone.

Directed by award-winning Guillermo Cienfuegos, the cast includes Victor Anthony, Joshua Bitton, Lesley Fera, Liza Fernandez, Matthew Hancock, Marisol Miranda, and Montae Russell.

At the first meet-and-greet, the company was joined by Fountain staff, Board members and donors.  The group enjoyed a brief welcoming reception and then gathered on the Fountain stage for the reading of the script. Director Cienfuegos commented that he was struck by the support of the Fountain Theatre Family. Never, he said, had he witnessed such a show of community at a first rehearsal, with such a large number of dedicated people so eagerly present. “This is wonderful,” he grinned. “Because the play, in addition to being about racism and class and police work, is really about family.”

Between Riverside and Crazy opens October 19. More Info/Get Tickets

Fountain Theatre announces 2019-20 season of diverse, funny and meaningful new work

2019 season ft bldg nightThe Fountain Theatre has announced a 2019-20 season of vibrant, thought-provoking, fresh and funny new work by a diverse group of playwrights, each of whom explores important social and cultural issues from a wholly unique perspective.

Over the course of 16 months, the company will offer up a series of Los Angeles, California, Southern California, West Coast and world premieres that tackle questions of politics, racism, gun control, human rights, cultural identity and more.

“Our 2019-20 season is our most ambitious ever,” says Fountain co-artistic director Stephen Sachs. “It perfectly reflects who and what we are as a theater organization. It’s a season of diversity, a rich mixture of new plays representing a wide variety of communities. Our goal is for Los Angeles to see itself on our stage, and this season certainly offers that.”

Details of the Fountain Theatre’s 2019-20 season are as follows: 

Hype Man by Idris Goodwin 

West Coast premiere. In Idris Goodwin’s “break beat play,” a diverse hip-hop trio is on the verge of making it big on national TV when a police shooting of a Black teen shakes the band to its core, forcing them to confront questions of race, gender, privilege and when to use artistic expression as an act of social protest. Winner, 2018 Elliot Norton Award. Directed by Deena Selenow.  Feb. 23 – April 14, 2019 

Daniel’s Husband by Michael McKeever 

Southern California premiere. Michael McKeever’s witty, passionate, funny and, ultimately, heartrending play takes an unflinching look at how we choose to tie the knot — or not. Daniel and Mitchell are the perfect couple. What isn’t so perfect is that Daniel desperately longs to be married, but Mitchell doesn’t believe in it. Then, a life-altering event forces both men to realize that, even in an enlightened society, the denial of fundamental rights leads to devastating results. Starring Bill BrochtrupTim Cummings and Jenny O’Hara; directed by Simon Levy May 4 – June 23, 2019

Hannah and the Dread Gazebo by Jiehae Park

California premiere. Hannah is two weeks away from becoming a board-certified neurologist when she receives a strange package from her grandmother, who may—or may not—have just ended her life in a most flamboyant fashion. The mystery leads Hannah and her family on a surreal, funny, heartbreaking adventure back to their roots in South and North Korea and the forbidden Demilitarized Zone that divides them. Wildly theatrical, Jiehae Park’s startling new comedy twists together creation myths and family histories to explore what it means to walk the edge between cultures. July 13 – Sept 1, 2019

Between Riverside and Crazy by Stephen Adly Guirgis

Los Angeles premiere. You can’t beat City Hall, but you can try. In this darkly comic, 2015 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama by Stephen Adly Guirgis, ex-cop and recent widower Walter ‘Pops’ Washington has made a home for his newly paroled son in his sprawling, rent-controlled Riverside Drive apartment. But now the NYPD is demanding his signature to close an outstanding lawsuit, the landlord wants him out, the liquor store is closed, and the church is on his back — leaving Pops somewhere between Riverside… and crazy. Sept. 21 – Nov. 10, 2019

 Jane Doe by Stephen Sachs

World premiere. In this contemporary retelling of the 1941 Frank Capra classic film Meet John Doe adapted by Fountain Theatre co-artistic director Stephen Sachs (Cyrano, Arrival & Departure, Citizen: An American Lyric), a newspaper writer fabricates a letter to his column from an imaginary homeless woman named “Jane Doe” who announces she will kill herself on the 4th of July because of greedy corporations, corrupt politicians and how hostile and heartless the world has become. When the writer hires a woman to stand-in as the fictitious “Jane”, a national movement is ignited by citizens aching for a savior. Jan. 18 – March 8, 2020 

If I Forget by Steven Levenson

Los Angeles premiere. Simon Levy directs this powerful tale of a Jewish family and a culture at odds with itself by Steven Levenson (book-writer of the hit musical Dear Evan Hansen). Michael is a liberal Jewish studies professor reuniting with his two sisters to celebrate their father’s 75th birthday. A political and deeply personal play about history, responsibility, and what we’re willing to sacrifice for a new beginning, told with vicious humor and unflinching honesty. If I Forget was a New York Times “Critic’s Pick,” while DC Metro calls it “one of the greatest Jewish plays of this century.” March 28 – May 17, 2020

In addition, the Fountain will continue to offer its acclaimed Forever Flamenco dance series every month.

The Fountain Theatre is one of the most successful intimate theaters in Los Angeles, providing a creative home for multi-ethnic theater and dance artists. The Fountain has won hundreds of awards, and Fountain projects have been seen across the U.S. and internationally. Recent highlights include being honored for its acclaimed 25th Anniversary Season in 2015 by Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Los Angeles City Council; the inclusion of the Fountain’s Citizen: An American Lyric in Center Theatre Group’s Block Party at the Kirk Douglas Theatre and again, last year, as the centerpiece of Our L.A. Voices at Grand Park; and an all-star reading of All The President’s Men at Los Angeles City Hall. The Fountain’s 2018 productions of The Chosen and Arrival & Departure each enjoyed months-long sold out runs and were named Los Angeles Times “Critic’s Choices.” The company’s most recent production, the West Coast premiere of Martyna Majok’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Cost of Living, was named to the Los Angeles Times’ “Best of 2018” list by theater critic Charles McNulty, who called the Fountain “on par with the Mark Taper Forum and Geffen Playhouse at their best. The Fountain Theatre’s production of Majok’s ‘Cost of Living’ confirmed just how indispensable 99-seat theaters still are to a healthy theater ecology.” 

For more information about the Fountain Theatre’s 2019-20 season, call (323) 663-1525 or go to www.FountainTheatre.com.