A scene from “I’m Gonna Pray for You So Hard”, playing now at Atlantic Stage 2.

Dysfunctional families, tortured artists, precocious children. The angst being exuded on the Upper West Side is being turned into high drama by playwrights with a keen ear for our neighborhood’s insane inner monologue.

Just check out some descriptions of recent plays, playing in New York and elsewhere (some have already closed):

Between Riverside and Crazy

“First seen in an Atlantic Theater Company production last summer, this constantly surprising work from Mr. Guirgis (author of the unprintably titled “The ______ With the Hat”) tells the story of a retired police officer (the wonderful Stephen McKinley Henderson) doing his best to hold onto to his dignity, his family and, most crucially, a rent-controlled apartment on the Upper West Side. Mr. Henderson’s character is called Pops, but this angry old man is far less cozy and more complicated than his folksy nickname suggests.”

Bad Jews

“The plot is simple enough. Grandfather has died. Younger son and cousin attended the funeral but older son and his girlfriend missed it. They return from overseas the night of the funeral to find they have to share a small Studio in the Upper West Side of Manhattan with younger brother and cousin, who have been there for two days…Cue bitter, savage and profane speeches from cousin and older brother about each other, each other’s attitude to religion and each’s “right” to the relic.”

This is Our Youth

“‘This Is Our Youth,’ with Tavi Gevinson and Michael Cera, portrays the ‘pathetic remnants of Upper West Side Jewish liberalism’”

I’m Gonna Pray For You So Hard

“In “I’m Gonna Pray,” Ella serves at first largely as a bolster to her father’s enormous ego and as a target for his vicious flashes of temper. Their late-night drinking-and-drugging binge in the family’s Upper West Side kitchen is a poisonous bonding ritual, filled with envy of their rivals and lust for acclaim. In the second section, five years later, there has been a rift between father and daughter; Ella’s life is in a starkly different state.”


“Kate (Lara Knox) is a child of privilege living in a palatial rent-controlled apartment on New York’s Upper West Side. She’s playing host to a weekly fiction-writing seminar for a select group of 20-somethings…As Leonard, Plate, who chairs the music theater department at Baldwin Wallace University, commands the Studio Theater stage with malicious joy; he is a lion moving among a shivering herd of gazelles. They know he could draw blood any moment but are too terrified to move…More bully than teacher, he treats his students’ sweated-over manuscripts like soiled Kleenex, reading a few lines, then casually tossing pages to the floor.”

So much drama going on in our tiny apartments, you’d think we’d have steam coming out from under our doors!

ABSURDITY, ART, NEWS | 6 comments | permalink
    1. RF says:

      “Between Riverside and Crazy” is one of the best plays I’ve seen in the past few months. If you missed it at the Atlantic, I highly recommend catching the production at Second Stage.

    2. ron shapley(NYC) says:

      Dysfunctional families, tortured artists, precocious children…..so these are the people who populate the UWS ??? Kind of like the looney bin

      • Christina says:

        I think now-a-days we can forget about the tortured artists. They don’t exist here anymore. The Dysfunctional families do but now they’re of the upper class variety. And with that comes the precocious spoiled children. This is what the UWS is today.

    3. Independent says:

      “The angst being exuded on the Upper West Side” […]

      “So much drama going on in our tiny apartments,” […]

      Speak for yourself, please. Not all of us exhibit the kind of dysfunction and degeneracy described and even if/when we do, we certainly don’t celebrate it as some form of “art”.

      Also, the apartments in the pre-war buildings at least (of which there are still no small number on the UWS) are by no means “tiny” (and many are quite large).

      • Phoebe says:

        True, our apartment was huge! My folks made a bigger mistake, giving it up. As for the rest … No comment.

    4. Mark Koppel says:

      There was also Mothers and Sons with Tyne Daly who plays a mother visiting the former partner of her son who had died of AIDS. Set in a CPW apartment with many comments about the view.:)