By the Water. Manhattan Theatre Club (see Off Broadway). By Sharyn Rothstein. Directed by Hal Brooks. With Vyto Ruginis, Deirdre O’Connell, Quincy Dunn-Baker. Running time: 1hr 35mins. No intermission.
By the Water: In brief
In Sharyn Rothstein's new play, Vyto Ruginis and the great Deirdre O'Connell play a Staten Island couple battling to rebuild their neighborhood and family after Superstorm Sandy. Hal Brooks directs a production codeveloped by Manhattan Theatre Club and Ars Nova.
By the Water: Theater review by Jenna Scherer
The American dream in its death throes is the subject of Sharyn Rothstein’s incisive new play, a coproduction of the Manhattan Theatre Club and Ars Nova. A couple of months after Superstorm Sandy tears its ruinous swath through the boroughs, working-class Staten Islanders Marty (Ruginis) and Mary Murphy (O’Connell) return to the ruins of their oceanside home. Marty is determined to repair the place, even as his neighbors consider taking the government up on a land buyout; meanwhile, their well-to-do Manhattanite son (Dunn-Baker) suggests getting the hell out of Dodge before the next natural disaster hits.
The storm has stripped the house down to its bones, and shaken family skeletons out of the closets—old rancor and buried secrets come to the surface as the Murphys dig through their wreckage. And yet Rothstein’s script and director Hal Brooks’s production are shot through with a sweetness that never turns saccharine. The ensemble cast is uniformly excellent. Both the characters’ love and disgust for one another feels lived-in, like an old armchair. By the Water is a solid play about a dissolving world; the Murphys may have built on sand, but Rothstein builds on bedrock.—Theater review by Jenna Scherer
THE BOTTOM LINE This Superstorm Sandy drama is a force of nature.