By the Water OFF-BROADWAY REVIEWS

Photo: Hiroyuki Ito
  • NY TIMES

  • VARIETY

  • TM

  • EW

  • THEATRE IS EASY

Opening Night:
November 18, 2014
Closing:
December 7, 2014

Theater: MTC / 131 West 55th Street, New York, NY, 10019

Synopsis: 

Hurricane Sandy has just ravaged the lifelong home of Marty and Mary Murphy. But the storm has ripped apart more than just the walls: with their neighbors too devastated to stay, the couple’s beloved Staten Island community is in danger of disappearing forever. Determined to rebuild, Marty wages a campaign to save his neighborhood and his home, but when the Murphys’ sons arrive to help their parents dig out, past betrayals come rushing to the surface. With fierce compassion and poignant humor, By the Water reminds us that the very powers that tear us apart can also bring us together.

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  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF By the Water

    The Murphys Don’t Know What to Do With Their House

    Charles Isherwood

    November 18, 2014: By the Water, a new play by Sharyn Rothstein, might be called a kitchen sink drama that’s conspicuously missing a kitchen sink. Also absent: Furniture, save a tattered plaid couch. And walls. The living room in which the play takes place, in a beachside Staten Island house ravaged by Hurricane Sandy, does feature a giant picture window — without the glass. Ms. Rothstein’s affecting play, which opened on Tuesday night at City Center in a Manhattan Theater Club production in association with Ars Nova, traces the impact of that devastating natural disaster on a middle-class couple who were already trudging uphill in the face of financial setbacks. Drawn with acute sympathy and in gritty detail, the play dramatizes the kind of story that filled newspapers in the months after the hurricane swept onto the Eastern Seaboard in 2012. Marty and Mary Murphy (Vyto Ruginis and Deirdre O’Connell) at first seem to share a rock-solid determination to rebuild the home they’ve lived in for most of the 38 years of their marriage. Although the monumental challenge involved smacks us in the face even as we enter the theater, where the set, by Wilson Chin, suggests a bomb site, Marty won’t listen to the urging of his elder son, Sal (Quincy Dunn-Baker), to move somewhere farther from the shore, with the help of the government assistance that’s been promised.

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  • VARIETY REVIEW OF By the Water

    Off Broadway Review: ‘By the Water’

    Marilyn Stasio

    November 18, 2014: By the Water, a play by Sharyn Rothstein with something original to say about unhappy families, was an excellent choice for the first production collaboration between MTC, a high-profile subscription house, and Ars Nova, an innovative developmental theater. Instead of drawing on the usual pretexts for gathering a fractious family together (Christmas, Thanksgiving, a funeral, etc.), the scribe sends her people to the family home on Staten Island that was devastated by Hurricane Sandy and makes their misfortune a tragedy shared by everyone in their close-knit, working-class community. What you get in helmer Hal Brooks’ perfectly cast production is a group of wonderful character actors playing wonderful characters. The imposingly built Vyto Ruginis is a commanding figure as Marty Murphy, a recognizable blue-collar guy in his early 60s who has lived his entire life in the house his father built (and set designer Wilson Chin has pretty much leveled), and who feels a deep connection to his neighbors and the community. “This is where we belong, this is where everyone knows us,” he explains to the son who is urging him to take the government buyout and get out of Dodge before the next hurricane hits. “We have history here.”

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  • THEATERMANIA REVIEW OF By the Water

    Sharyn Rothstein's new drama explores the aftershocks of Hurricane Sandy

    David Gordon

    November 18, 2014: It's a sight all too familiar to New Yorkers who lived through Hurricane Sandy — people returning to their homes, only to find a junkyard where a multilevel house once stood. As the lights rise on By the Water, a new play by Sharyn Rothstein at Manhattan Theatre Club's Studio at Stage II, this image, and Wilson Chin's wood-strewn wasteland of a set, is almost too much to handle. For a whole swath of audience members, By the Water, one of the first plays to dramatize the fertile dramatic territory of the 2012 superstorm, will prove painfully close to life. Rothstein has penned an earnest piece for this coproduction of MTC and Ars Nova, one that's not ashamed to go straight for the heartstrings. Even though it's too overstuffed for its own good with manufactured conflict, there's more than enough to admire, especially in Hal Brooks' extraordinarily acted staging. At the center of By the Water are Mary and Marty Murphy (Deirdre O'Connell and Vyto Ruginis), a pair of 60-somethings whose residence on the Staten Island coastline was basically demolished. Their faith in God is what pulled them through, and their first line of defense for not wanting to move, no matter how much they are urged by their elder son, Sal (Quincy Dunn-Baker). But for some dubious reason, Marty won't budge, going so far as to start a campaign to save the community when presented by their best friends Philip and Andrea (Ethan Phillips and Charlotte Maier) with the opportunity at a government buyout of the land. A second storyline follows Sal's rocky relationship with his brother, Brian (Tom Pelphrey), a former addict recently released after 29 months in prison. Brian is simultaneously trying to repair his relationship with his brother while also attempting to make it right with his ex-girlfriend, Emily (Cassie Beck).

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  • ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY REVIEW OF By the Water

    By the Water Review

    Jason Clark

    November 18, 2014: A simple photo of Hurricane Sandy's 2012 devastation in NYC could inform dozens of harrowing, emotionally resonant family stories. Sharyn Rothstein's By the Water—a new play performing at Manhattan Theatre Club's Stage II through Dec. 7—ekes out one such tale, but with several decades' worth of hoary melodrama subbing for the resonance. The Murphy clan has been reunited after Sandy has torn through Staten Island, and Marty and Mary (Vyto Ruginis and Deirdre O’Connell) intend on rebuilding their pummeled home, despite a looming government buyout. Older, responsible son Sal (Quincy Dunn-Baker) is all for the buyout so his parents can get back on their feet, but his Manhattan modernism clashes with their stubborn traditionalism. Younger son Brian (Tom Pelphrey, doing a strange, goofy riff on Ratso Rizzo) is a former addict and ex-con, and often favored by his bullheaded father, the same father who, it turns out, has a questionable relationship with the very community he's trying to unite.

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  • THEATRE IS EASY REVIEW OF By the Water

    Sharyn Rothstein’s By The Water is a timely and impactful family drama about a Staten Island community ravaged by Hurricane Sandy

    Geri Silver

    November 18, 2014: The mysteriously elusive American Dream has been the subject of many powerful classic and modern American dramas, and the family at the center of Sharyn Rothstein’s new play By The Water is similarly plagued by the frustrating search for middle class stability. Before Hurricane Sandy, Marty and Mary Murphy (Vyto Ruginis and Deirdre O’Connell) seemed to be living their version of the American Dream -- happily married for 38 years, loved by the community in their tight-knit Staten Island town, looking forward to one day becoming grandparents. On October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy tore through their beloved town, effectively washing away the fragile stability they’d maintained for years. In a striking premiere production in a Manhattan Theatre Club and Ars Nova collaboration to advance new works, Rothstein’s By The Water is both timeless and timely in its portrayal of an American family’s struggle and strength. By The Water begins a few months after Hurricane Sandy, the largest Atlantic hurricane on record, wreaked havoc on the Northeast, causing unprecedented destruction to homes and lives in the region. Compared to others in the neighborhood, the Murphy family was lucky; they may have a gaping whole in their wall, but their house is still standing and their refrigerator miraculously survived the floods. Others in their small town, including long-time friends and neighbors Andrea and Philip Carter (Charlotte Maier and Ethan Phillips), are left with nothing, forced to make tough decisions on what to do and where to go next. Marty Murphy is determined to rebuild; Mary is determined to support Marty and keep the peace; and when their two adult sons (Quincy Dunn-Baker and Tom Pelphrey) come home to help clean, family secrets and baggage create a whole new mess.

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