Northlight Theatre Presents BY THE WATER – A Hurricane Dredges Up Family Drama

Northlight Theatre Presents Drama About Hurricane Sandy

In Sharon Rothstein's play, By the Water, now playing at Northlight Theatre, a couple returns to their home of thirty years which has been ravaged by Hurricane Sandy. Neighbors and family arrive to weigh in on the costs and benefits of rebuilding in the crosshairs of future storms, while Marty Murphy (Francis Guinan) opines about community's role in defining one's home. Dutifully directed by Cody Estle, By the Water charts familiar territory, as the family's​ secrets are revealed amidst petitions for a government buy out.

By the Water Presents A Richly Designed World

The Murphy family's home is as much a character as any of the other inhabitants of Staten Island, and Jeffrey D. Kmiec's richly detailed scenic design perfectly crafts the play's setting. Coldly lit by JR Lederle, there is a deep history among the weathered, beaten walls that frame the action of the play. A window miraculously remains upon a portion of dilapidated wall, paint has molded and warped from extensive water damage, and refuse litters the periphery of the property. When characters comment on the stench upon returning, Kmiec's scenic design makes it easy to imagine the smell. It isn't pretty.

Northlight Presents BY THE WATER
Guinan and Slusher. Photo by Michael Brosilow.

A Powerhouse Cast

Estle has assembled a powerhouse cast for his Northlight directorial debut. Led by Guinan and Penny Slusher (Mary), each actor imbues their character with an inner life as detailed as the set. As revelations pile up during the latter half of the production, we see each character struggle to accept these painful additions to their worldview. Specific praise must be shared with the women of the production (Janet Ulrich Brooks as family friend Andrea, and Amanda Drinkall as her recently divorced daughter, Emily) whose yeoman performances help to communicate why each woman forgives the failures of their male counterparts again and again.

Northlight Presents BY THE WATER
Ulrich, Brooks, Slusher, and Guinan Photo: Michael Brosilow
Northlight Presents BY THE WATER
Drinkall and Reitsma. Photo by Michael Brosilow.

Material Belongings Made Immaterial In Face of Disaster

By the Water is a strikingly produced, albeit at times tentative, production exploring the American Dream, and catastrophe's role in defining our fate. These issues are not always at the forefront of Rothstein's by-the-book play, but specific moments sing when text and performer come together. Guinan ensures that Marty's late play insistence that he can still work is layered with desperation and wounded pride. Drinkall and Joel Reitsma get similar mileage out of the piece's budding romance, itself questionable in necessity but charted effectively with each character's dashed dreams looming large. In the end, Rothstein's play seems to make the case that our relationships with others are far more integral to our sense of community and home than the buildings we inhabit.

Somewhat Recommended


By the Water runs through April 23, 2017.
Wednesdays: 1:00pm (except April 5) and 7:30pm
Thursdays: 7:30pm
Fridays: 8:00pm
Saturdays: 2:30pm and 8:00pm
Sundays: 2:30pm (except April 16) and 7:00pm (April 9 only)


Northlight Theatre is located at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd, Skokie


Regular run: $30-$81
Student tickets are $15, any performance (subject to availability)
The Box Office is located at 9501 Skokie Blvd, Skokie.


All photos by Michael Brosilow.

About the Author:

Brent Ervin-Eickhoff is a Chicago-based director, writer, and educator. In addition to PictureThisPost, he has written for HowlRound and Third Coast Review. Brent has worked with A Red Orchid Theatre, Mary-Arrchie Theatre Co., The Arc Theatre, The Public House Theatre, Something Marvelous, Whiskey Radio Hour, and The Burrowers. He is also a co-founder of Blue Goose Theatre Ensemble.

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