Actors Eugene Lee and Bryant Bentley are excited to be performing in Pittsburgh again.
“I feel at home here in Pittsburgh. I love the city and the people are very welcoming,” said Eugene Lee who last performed the electrifying one-man show,” How I Learned What I Learned,” an autobiographical story about Pittsburgh Playwright August Wilson for the Pittsburgh Public Theater in 2015. “I am excited to be working with the Pittsburgh Public Theater again.
Bentley agrees with his cast mate.
“I have done work with the Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre and Mark Southers and I really enjoyed the work and I love the city of Pittsburgh,” explained Bentley who began acting professionally 16 years ago but got cut his performing teeth as a youngster in church.
The actors are in town starring in Stephen Adly Guiris’ “Between Riverside and Crazy,” which continues Pittsburgh Public Theater’s 42nd season and will be running at the O’Reilly Theater from Nov. 10-Dec. 11.
It tells the story of retired police officer Walter “Pops” Washington. His disorderly but highly sought after rent-controlled apartment on New York City’s Riverside Drive, is where the action ensues. Since the death of Walter’s wife, his son, Junior has returned to stay for good. Also putting down roots in Junior’s girlfriend, Lulu and former ex-con Oswaldo.
When an engaged couple from the NYPD comes for dinner, they bring their own agenda and another visitor, the mysterious Church Lady, is anything but pious. Filled with social commentary, “Between Riverside and Crazy,” which won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize, touches on social issues like the difference between justice and law, the human potential for change and how love is expressed.
“This is a wonderful piece of theater and a great father and son tale,” explained Lee who portrays Walter “Pop’s” Washington. “The play speaks to the father son relationship and speaks to things that don’t get said until later in life. My character is a 30-year veteran of the police force and he and his son are two ships that find each other.”
Lee, who was born and raised and still resides in Texas said he used his previous acting performance of playing cops and his role as a real life father to give the role meat.
The avid golfer began his acting career at the age of 19 and has appeared in stage work in the United States and Asia. He was one of the original cast members in “A Soldier’s Play” opposite Denzel Washington and Samuel L. Jackson. He has performed in a number of August Wilson plays including “Gem of the Ocean,” which won him the title of “Wilsonian Warrior.” He is in residence and the artistic director of the Black and Latino Playwright’s Conference at Texas State University.
“I’m basically using very little research and this is not a physically demanding play. The words are what makes the play sing,” Lee said.
While Lee is using is previous acting experience for his role, Bentley is drawing on personal experience to bring the role of Junior to life.
“I didn’t have a good relationship with my own father. My dad wasn’t in my life but I knew him,” said Bentley who was born in Dayton but resides in Columbus and began acting professionally in 2000 at the age of 26. He performed the role of Junior in a production of “Between Riverside and Crazy” last year. “As a kid I dealt with acceptance and I asked my father questions and that he never answered.”
Bentley said there are moments in the play that really hit home for him in a lot of ways.
“There is a lot of realness to this piece. It helps me as an individual to get some pain out. I would hope that the fathers and sons who come out and see this play will reach out to each other and get some closure and communicate to each other. People need to have a sense of forgiveness and love and stop walking around with bitterness in their hearts,” Bentley said.
“Between Riverside and Crazy” is being directed by Pamela Berlin. The design team Michael Schweikardt (scenic); Suzanne Chesney (Costumes); John Lasiter (Lighting); Zach Moore (sound); Fight Consultant Randy Kovitz and Assistant Stage Manager is Phill Madore. In addition to Lee and Bentley, the show features Christina Nieves as Lulu; Alejandro Hernandez as Oswaldo; Dawn McGee and Drew Stone as the engaged couple; and Karina Arroyave as the church lady.
Performances for “Between Riverside and Crazy” are as follows: Tuesdays at 7 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays 2 p.m.(except Nov. 12 and 19) plus 2 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 8. Sundays 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. (except Dec. 11 when the final performance is at 2 p.m.). There will be no performance on Thanksgiving.
(Tickets range in price from $25 to $62 and can be purchased by visiting http://www.ppt.org or calling (412) 316-1600.)
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