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Evaluation | As a fraught 12 months on Broadway ends, a fantastic actor rises – The Washington Put up


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NEW YORK — Stephen McKinley Henderson can convey extra in a single look than some actors handle in a geyser of grins, grimaces and gesticulations. In Stephen Adly Guirgis’s compulsively absorbing “Between Riverside and Loopy,” Henderson performs a disabled New York Metropolis cop waging authorized struggle with the NYPD after being shot off obligation. The fashion and guile he embodies so subtly and effortlessly maintain a Broadway viewers in his thrall.

Within the spate of reveals that ring out Broadway in 2022, Henderson and “Between Riverside and Loopy” present the deepest satisfaction. Supported by a nimble solid that features the rap star Widespread in a permeably emotional Broadway debut, Henderson instantly rises to the highest of any checklist for awards-season consideration. He originated the function of Walter Washington — a.ok.a. Pops — on the planet premiere of this Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy-drama at Atlantic Theater Firm in 2014, and the efficiency has mellowed rewardingly with observe, and time.

The standard of nonmusical theater on Broadway this fall has been distinctive. A have a look at the weekly box-office numbers, revealed by the commerce group the Broadway League, reveals that a few of these performs have been struggling to search out an viewers. Whether or not that could be a side-effect of a pandemic that altered viewing habits or a deeper shift within the tradition away from leisure constructed on weightier points, I can’t say. Maybe each.

However in choices akin to “Topdog/Underdog,” “Death of a Salesman,” “The Piano Lesson,” “Leopoldstadt” and now “Between Riverside and Loopy” on the Helen Hayes Theater, Broadway is exercising its possibility to stay related as a platform for incisive, enlightening drama. (I look ahead to attending one other thrilling play within the subsequent week, the Broadway bow at 91 years younger of playwright Adrienne Kennedy and her “Ohio State Murders” starring Audra McDonald.)

Two different reveals I caught up with just lately, one a musical adaptation of “Some Like It Sizzling,” the opposite a biographical drama, “The Collaboration,” are spottier diversions. The musical, premiering on the Shubert Theatre, is one other Broadway tackle Billy Wilder’s 1959 film farce a few pair of male musicians disguised as members of an all-female band to flee the mob. It has cute moments: The leads, humorous Christian Borle and glowing J. Harrison Ghee, elevate a manufacturing directed by Casey Nicholaw that too typically reminds you of older, higher musicals.

It’s all solidly skilled, although additionally overly mechanical, with a vocally deft efficiency by Adrianna Hicks as temperamental rising star Sugar. (Really, a previous musical based mostly on the film, “Sugar,” had a 505-performance Broadway run in 1972-1973.) Hicks, a vivacious alumna of final season’s hit, “Six,” radiates pleasure however not insouciance; you’re by no means fairly satisfied she’s the winsome backstage troublemaker she’s made out to be.

The rating by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, who did the identical honors, and fabulously, on “Hairspray,” is a nod to tunesmiths of yore. The second act begins with a quantity known as “Let’s Be Dangerous” that could be a first cousin to Cole Porter’s “Let’s Misbehave.”

There’s nothing objectionable about “Some Like It Sizzling,” simply as there’s nothing significantly particular.

Playwright Anthony McCarten’s “The Collaboration,” on the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, additionally boasts some polished portrayals, most noteworthily by Jeremy Pope as Jean-Michel Basquiat, the tempestuous American painter who died at 27 in 1988. The play is an account of Basquiat’s unlikely teaming up with Andy Warhol (Paul Bettany) on a joint sequence of work, and of the advanced rivalry and friendship that ensued.

Like many biographical performs, this one, directed by Kwame Kwei-Armah, is extra discursive than illuminating. Introduced collectively by an agent, Bruno (a slyly manipulative Erik Jensen), the artists reveal their idiosyncratic wants for dominance and acclaim. Your quest for some deeper perception into their lives and instances — and even how they make their artwork — stays unhappy, nonetheless. The expertise is akin to being invited to examine a canvas earlier than it’s been accomplished.

The image in “Between Riverside and Loopy,” however, is richly infused with nuance and which means, from the primary scene to the final. The seven characters are all liars and but all are sympathetic: nice writing (and directing, by Austin Pendleton) have a manner of carrying out that. Henderson’s Walter is himself a riddle, each beneficiant and embittered, holding out for a payday from his lawsuit whereas giving shelter in his Riverside Drive condominium to a recovering junkie (the superb Victor Almanzar) in addition to his larcenous son (Widespread) and airhead of a girlfriend (a hilarious Rosal Colón).

Walter is an individual of warring impulses, multidimensionally human, defiantly clear-eyed. He appears to intuit that when his former associate, Detective O’Connor (Elizabeth Canavan), reveals up together with her police-brass fiance (Michael Rispoli) and a suggestion to settle the swimsuit, there’s an agenda to their profit, not his. Guirgis fills the play ingeniously with double-dealing characters like these, in order that the story twists, and twists once more, whilst a seemingly benign Church Girl (the terrific Liza Colón-Zayas) turns up, to supply her personal distinctive model of consolation.

What precisely Walter desires is the linchpin thriller of “Between Riverside and Loopy,” one which Guirgis satisfyingly solutions. It’s all staged on Walt Spangler’s marvelously reasonable, revolving condominium set, a mechanism that operates a lot the way in which Henderson’s efficiency appears to: spinning our imaginations, joyfully.

Between Riverside and Loopy, by Stephen Adly Guirgis. Directed by Austin Pendleton. Set, Walt Spangler; costumes, Alexis Forte; lighting, Keith Parham; music and sound, Ryan Rumery. About 2 hours quarter-hour. At Helen Hayes Theater, 240 W. forty fourth St., N.Y. 2st.com.

Some Like It Sizzling, music by Marc Shaiman, lyrics by Scott Wittman and Shaiman, guide by Matthew López and Amber Ruffin. Directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw. Units, Scott Pask; costumes, Gregg Barnes; lighting, Natasha Katz; sound, Brian Ronan. With NaTasha Yvette Williams. About 2½ hours. At Shubert Theatre, 225 W. forty fourth St., N.Y. telecharge.com.

The Collaboration, by Anthony McCarten. Directed by Kwame Kwei-Armah. Units and costumes, Anna Fleischle; lighting, Ben Stanton; sound, Emma Laxton; projections, Duncan McLean. With Krysta Rodriguez. About 2 hours quarter-hour. By way of Jan. 29 at Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 W. forty seventh St., N.Y. telecharge.com.

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