Wednesday January 24th 2018

“By the Water”

bythewater8Highly Recommended **** If one has never been involved with a natural disaster, one can only imagine what goes through the minds of those who experience this. In “By the Water”, now in its Midwest Premiere at Northlight Theatre, we meet the Murphy family, Marty and Mary, who have just had their home ravished by Hurricane Sandy. Marty (the always incredible  Francis Guinan, who once again shows why he is selected by all of the theater companies in Chicago) grew up in this house, wed Mary ( another incredible and credible performance by Penny Slusher) and raised two sons in this home on Staten Island. The house has been all but destroyed by the hurricane, but they have come back to rebuild and repair their home.

As the story evolves, we learn that it is more than just the walls and the roof that are crumbling, but, in fact the entire area. This is not the first time that Mother Nature has toyed with this community and many of its residents are about ready to call it quits and accept the fact that it is time to move on. Not so, with the Marty and Mary. Written by Sharyn Rothstein and finely directed by Cody Estle, this 100 minute play (no intermission) is a deep look at a family and its positives as well as negatives. Marty and Mary have two sons, very different. Sal (deftly handled by Jordan Brown)is married to an up -and- coming attorney, living in New York. He is fairly successful and content with his life. His younger brother,  Brian ( Joel Reitsma) has had a more troubled life with addiction problems, and is now a cook at an Italian Garden eatery. Both of the boys have come to assist their parents with the clean-up efforts, but each has their own agenda for the future.bythewater4

Neighbors and best friends,  Philip ( Patrick Clear) and Andrea (the always reliable Janet Ulrich Brooks) are convinced that now is the time to leave their flooded homes. Or at least what is left of them, and head to a more stable and safe “senior Community”. It seems that the government is ready to make an offer to assist the people who have lived this “topsy-turvey” lifestyle over the years. Marty is against this, feeling that this is their home and they should fight to stay where they are. As we learn along the way, there are many little secrets within the Murphy family and as they come out, we see just what the motivations are. Spoiler Alert: What happened in the storyline is very real in that people do keep secrets from each other and no one can ever know if and when they will come to the surface. When this does, lives can become jumbled and people can become confused at the ulterior motives for the actions taken.bythewater9

I prefer not to let out any of the story that would have an effect on your viewing it, but will tell you that there is another character, Emily (the adorable Amanda Drinkall) who is the daughter of Andrea and Philip. Emily is a divorcee and was at one time Brian’s girlfriend. These characters also help in the unveiling of the past that Rothstein brings to the fold. The social and political changes in the lives of these people is amazing to watch. Anyone who has children, despite how much you love them and work for them, knows that they often find their own way and disagree with all that you taught them. That is the “generational gap”. As a grandfather, I know that the next generation is even further away. We all made sacrifices for our children, just as our parents did for us. Each one to make the lives of our children better than the lives we had.

Do today’s children feel the same? I think, in the life they have, that today’s young people are more concerned with themselves over the people who brought them to where they are today. In this particular story, one will see many secrets that were held inside for years, and through the turn of events, came to light- and how they affected the Murphy family. I think one who has any little doubts about their own family will find that this story will tug at their heartstrings. It is very real! Many of us have skeletons in their closets. What happens when the closet door comes open and the skeleton becomes factual?

On a very realistic set (Jeffrey D. Kniec) that surely appears to show the devastation, Estle moves the scenes about. There were a few times that the actors were not as easy to hear as they are not wearing mikes. In musical shows, the actors wear body mikes, but in straight shows, not so. They do hang a few extra from the ceiling, but to be honest, it might be better for the story to have the actors heard by all who attend. The lighting ( JR Lederle) is magnificent and the sound (other than that of the actors at times) by Lindsay Jones, who also wrote the incidental music-wonderful and very fitting is perfect. The play begins with the sounds of a storm that might rock you off your seats! Well done! Rachel Laritz’ costumes are fitting and whoever did the props did a masterful job. There are several meals eaten during this production. I surely home that Guinan keeps his weight under control.bythewater2

“By The Water” takes a strong look at “community” and what it means. Also, about family and what keeps it together. It also looks at forgiveness and how people can make mistakes for all the right reasons, and yet, appear to have done so for self-serving issues. I found this to be a strong look at family, and as one who doesn’t have the closest of ties with mine, but sees others that do, learned a great deal form the words written by Rothstein. In the program, there are several photographs of the aftermath of “Sandy”. Seeing them, makes it more understandable that there were some ready to leave, and that one could justify wanting to stay and leave a legacy for future generations of family. I would be interested to hear your views.

“By the Water” will continue at Northlight Theatre located at The North Shore Center for Performing Arts at 9501 Skokie Blvd ( just south of Golf Road) through April 23rd with performances as follows:

by the waterWednesdays  1 p.m. (except 4/5) and 7:30 p.m.

Thursdays  7:30 p.m.

Fridays  8 p.m.

Saturdays  2:30 and  8 p.m.

Sundays  2:30 (except 4/16) and on April 9th at 7 p.m. as well

Tickets range from $30- $81 (students are $15 any performance subject to availability) and can be purchased at the box office, by calling 847-673-6300 or online at



There are some special events relative to their production:

March 29th  10:45 a.m. at Bernard Weinger JCC, at 300 Revere Drive Northbrook- No Charge

April 1st a panel discussion at Evanston Library, 1703 Orrington Ave at 4 p.m.-” Changing climate-changing lives”. No chargebythewater6

Plenty of free parking at the theater.

To see what others are saying, visit, go to Review Round-Up and click at “By the Water”



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