Stephen Adly Guirgis

Between Riverside And Crazy

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  • Features 2 chapter summaries and 5 sections of expert analysis
  • Written by a former professor with multiple graduate degrees
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Between Riverside And Crazy Summary & Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 30-page guide for “Between Riverside And Crazy” by Stephen Adly Guirgis includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 2 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Forgiveness and the Process of Letting Go and Police, Race, and Identity.

Plot Summary

Between Riverside and Crazy, a 2014 play in two acts by Stephen Adly Guirgis, won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. This work is widely considered a New York play written by a New York playwright, as it captures the particular spirit of this unique city in its story about an ex-cop facing eviction from his rent-controlled apartment and his efforts to understand and adapt to his changing world.

Stephen Adly Guirgis, a native of New York City, grew up on the Upper West Side, a neighborhood in Manhattan coveted for its position next to Central Park and its leafy, residential appeal. Guirgis comes from a working class family, unlike many of his neighbors, and his characters often reflect the social milieu he knows best, despite the polished impressions of his childhood street address of Riverside Drive—the same Riverside mentioned in the title of this play. An untrained playwright and actor, Guirgis took eight years to finish his undergraduate degree from the State University of New York-Albany.

Guirgis acknowledges that much of the content in Between Riverside and Crazy is autobiographical. The apartment in the play shares some characteristics with his old childhood home on Riverside Drive, and Guirgis himself has had confrontations with new management who want to get rid of old tenants in order to raise the rent. As well, his own emotional experience with his father after the death of his mother explains some of the dialogue between Pops, the lead character, and his son, Junior. In terms of historical background, the 1994 shooting of a black undercover transit officer by a white cop inspired the background story of Pops’s injury and his consequent lawsuit against the city; in real life, Desmond Robinson was critically injured after being shot four times in his torso, but he did recover physically from his injuries. Both he and the white policeman left their jobs as a result of the incident.

Much has been made critically of Guirgis’s style and tone, and his liberal use of profanity has inspired Lighting and Sound America, an entertainment-technology magazine, to describe Guirgis as the country’s “new reigning poet of the obscene.” Guirgis’s language has been defended as a kind of realism that uplifts the voices of under-represented individuals: the aggression of the language matches the difficulty of their situations, in many cases.

Guirgis is also an actor, and since 1993, he has been a part of the LAByrinth (Latino Actors Base) theater company. According to Guirgis, collaborations with Philip Seymour Hoffman and other theater talents gave Guirgis the motivation and discipline he needed to complete plays; without their support and involvement, Guirgis may not have had either the confidence or the dedication to deliver on his literary promise. In addition to the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Guirgis has also received a Harold and Mimi Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award, which comes with a $200,000 stipend. Guirgis writes for television as well as for the stage, and he is also involved in arts education efforts that use improvisational theater exercises to teach AIDS prevention, conflict resolution, and leadership.

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Act 1