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 Guirgis’ 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 don’t hear from often enough.
"They’re 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, it’s a show about a retired ex-cop who’s trying to hold onto his rent-controlled apartment. It’s 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. He’s been performing in the United States, Europe and the Middle East, but dates for his 2018 tour, Love Isn’t 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 don’t answer, they’re 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 — 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 Nemr’s 2017 television special, No Bombing in Beruit, at 11 p.m. Saturday on Showtime.
WARN YOUR RELATIVES: HARI KONDABOLU
Here’s what having a hit Netflix special has done for Hari Kondabolu: "To some degree, you’re competing against yourself: ‘Are you as funny as the guy that I saw in the special?’" 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: Friday’s 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.
Jay Cridlin, Times pop music/culture critic
AMERICA’S 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 Largo’s Osceola Middle.
"When you make them laugh, that’s 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. He’ll take the stage along with Jander Gray and "Brute Force" (Stephen Friedland). It’s 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.