This week on stage: American Stage’s ‘Between Riverside and Crazy,’ lots of comedy

Published October 3
Updated October 3

AMERICAN STAGE: BETWEEN RIVERSIDE AND CRAZY

Walter "Pops" Johnson, a retired New York City police officer, has his hands full in Between Riverside and Crazy, Stephen Adly Guirgisí 2015 Pulitzer-winning play. American Stage opens the season with L. Peter Callender, who directed the last two August Wilson plays plus A Raisin in the Sun, playing Pops, who is providing a roof for his ex-convict son while fighting eviction from his rent-controlled apartment and suing the NYPD. Cast members returning to American Stage include Vickie Daignault (Good People), Enoch King (A Raisin in the Sun) and Ricky Wayne (Tartuffe).

Guirgis, who also wrote Jesus Hopped the A Train and
The Motherf----- With the Hat, has made a mark with singular "street" characters, the kind we donít hear from often enough.

"Theyíre all trying to hold onto their truth and their reality and create a life for themselves that they believe they deserve," said director Benjamin T. Ismail. "Essentially, itís a show about a retired ex-cop whoís trying to hold onto his rent-controlled apartment. Itís about race, loss, depression, fatherhood, all of these big ideas without ever having that character break them down."

Friday through Nov. 4 at the Raymond James Theatre, 163 Third St. N, St. Petersburg. $44 and up. Previews cost $20 Wednesday and $30 Thursday. (727) 823-7529. For showtimes, go to americanstage.org.

A WIDER AUDIENCE: NEMR

At 35, Nemr, a comic who goes by his first name, is catching on. Heís been performing in the United States, Europe and the Middle East, but dates for his 2018 tour, Love Isnít the Answer, have multiplied. Both his material about terrorism and his desire to get different cultures laughing help him stand out.

"As an Arab, if you call a loved one and they donít answer, theyíre dead," he told one audience. "This is what it means."

He was born Nemr Abou Nassar in Lebanon, grew up in San Diego but then moved back with his family to Lebanon. He started doing stand-up after the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war in Northern Lebanon ó a direct response to that conflict, he has said. Thursday through Sunday at Tampa Improv, 1600 E Eighth Ave., Tampa. $17-$20. (813) 864-4000. For showtimes, go to improvtampa.com. You can also catch Nemrís 2017 television special, No Bombing in Beruit, at 11 p.m. Saturday on Showtime.

WARN YOUR RELATIVES: HARI KONDABOLU

Hereís what having a hit Netflix special has done for Hari Kondabolu: "To some degree, youíre competing against yourself: ĎAre you as funny as the guy that I saw in the special?í" Good thing Kondabolu is. The former contributor to Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell is one of the sharper social comics touring these days. Just watch his Simpsons-rattling documentary The Problem With Apu, which argued, convincingly, that the character voiced by the white Hank Azaria was kind of racist. If you were a fan of his spring special Warn Your Relatives, good news: Fridayís show at the Jaeb Theater of the Straz Center, 1010 N MacInnes Place in Tampa, will be mostly new material. $26.50 and up. (813) 229-7827. strazcenter.org.

Click here for more with Hari Kondabolu.

Jay Cridlin, Times pop music/culture critic

AMERICAíS FUNNIEST TEACHER: MIKE RIVERA

Before winning over judges on The View as the "funniest teacher in America," Mike Rivera had already proved himself to the a tough audience, namely his seventh-grade civics students at Largoís Osceola Middle.

"When you make them laugh, thatís genuine, man," Rivera told the Times in 2013.

On The View, Rivera has riffed about student essays and the parents who write them, his Puerto Rican ancestry and the perks of getting paid to joke around. Heíll take the stage along with Jander Gray and "Brute Force" (Stephen Friedland). Itís all part of Ward Smith and Friends, hosted by actor, director and comic Ward Smith, who has opened for Larry the Cable Guy and other top comics. 8 p.m. Friday at the Palladium, 253 Fifth Ave N, St. Petersburg. $30. (727) 823-2040. mypalladium.org.

   
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