“By the Water” proves to be a richly rewarding experience on many levels, from the relatable family dynamics to the performers. They bring this drama, with all its inherent heartbreak, vividly to life.
When the Murphy family faces the loss of their lifelong home, the secrets they’ve kept buried for years are suddenly exposed – leaving them vulnerable not only to nature, but to each other. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the Murphys fight to protect their home, their community and their dignity in this compassionate portrait of a working class family struggling to keep their American Dream alive.
Photos by Michael Brosilow
by Scott C. Morgan
March 29, 2017
Hurricane Sandy drama ‘By the Water’ makes powerful debut at Northlight
Heartbreaking expressions of loss grab you from the start in the Hurricane Sandy drama “By the Water.” Sharyn Rothstein’s 2014 play makes a solid Midwestern debut at Skokie’s Northlight Theatre and proves to be a powerful vehicle to show off amazing local theater artists at the height of their games.
Rothstein skillfully makes “By the Water” more than a drama about the logistics and necessary decisions of a post-disaster cleanup. Through these two families, she touches on more universal themes of community trust, generational divides, yearning for lost youth and the uncomfortable realizations of parents relinquishing decision-making powers to their grown children.
With such juicy dramatic material to work with, director Cody Estle and his top-notch ensemble have a field day bringing their characters’ heightened emotions — and New York accents — to the fore.
by Hedy Weiss
March 26, 2017
Swept up by the power of home in ‘By the Water’
Over the years, disasters —both natural and man-made — have swept through the door of the modest but much-loved home of Marty and Mary Murphy, the couple at the center of “By the Water,” Sharyn Rothstein’s emotionally deep, aptly economical play, now receiving an ideal production at Northlight Theatre.
As Rothstein’s play opens, Marty (Francis Guinan) and Mary (Penny Slusher) — master actors in a perfect naturalistic pairing — have just gotten the OK to return to their wreck of a home, now a barely habitable structure with holes in the walls, with broken furniture and garbage strewn everywhere, and with mold probably already growing at a rapid rate. (Jeffrey D. Kmiec’s set is a superb photorealist work of destruction.) The house is a shocking sight, yet both of them are determined to remake their lives there; it is really all they have ever known.
Under Cody Estle’s pitch-perfect direction, Rothstein’s insightful work about the dynamics between parents and children, the differences in generational and class attitudes, the nature of marriage and community, the power of habit, the sources of comfort, and the true meaning of goodness is rendered with seeming effortlessness. And yes, there is a message about “global warming” here, too, but to her credit, Rothstein never needs to use the term.
by Chris Jones
March 26, 2017
Human resilience in the face of great loss
Sharyn Rothstein’s play “By the Water,” a piece that premiered at the Manhattan Theatre Club in 2014 and can now be seen at the Northlight Theatre under the very solid direction of the emerging Cody Estle, is about all those things: Sandy, Staten Island and the shifting sands of life from paycheck to paycheck.
This is not an excessively ambitious drama; there is no epic coming together of disparate plot strands. The one-set physical production is conventional. A debt is owed to old-school American realism, be it gritty TV naturalism or such plays as Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons.”
But new, non-condescending plays about working-class characters remain rare, especially dramas where you feel like the writer really knows and cares about the people whose fates she is chronicling, and there is poignancy in this writing. This is not as depressing a play as it may sound, even though it was sparked by the real-life destruction of a neighborhood.
Janet Ulrich Brooks
Janet is a member of TimeLine, where she has appeared in A Walk in the Woods,All My Sons, When She Danced, Not Enough Air, Weekend, Tesla’s Letters, Paradise Lost, Lillian and A Man For All Seasons. Chicago credits include: The Seagull and A True History of the Johnstown Flood(Goodman), The Original Grease (American Theatre Company), Pony (About Face), Jacob & Jack (Victory Gardens), Golda’s Balcony (Pegasus Players, Jeff Award Non-Equity wing – Outstanding Solo Performance), and work with Strawdog Theatre Company, Steppenwolf for Young Adults, Writers’, Collaboraction, and others. Film and TV: Conviction, Polish Bar, I Heart Shakey, One Small Hitch and Chicago Code. Janet received the first Ed See Outstanding Theatre Alumnus Award from the University of Central Missouri, and earned her MFA in acting from Western Illinois University.
Jordan is proud to return to Northlight Theatre, where he previously appeared in White Guy On The Bus and Sense and Sensibility. His other Chicago credits include the Goodman Theatre’s Wonderful Town, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Brigadoon (Jeff Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor, Musical), and A Christmas Carol; Iphigenia In Aulis (Court Theatre); The Pitmen Painters and Juno (TimeLine Theatre) and In The Company Of Men (Profiles Theatre). Off-Broadway, he played Claudio in Much Ado About Nothing (Theatre Row in the Beckett Theatre). In Baltimore, he appeared in A Skull in Connemara (Centerstage Theatre). Mr. Brown’s television credits include Sirens and Crisis. Mr. Brown can also be seen playing the role of Kirt in NBC’s very first web series, Bobby & Iza. He is a graduate of the University of the North Carolina School of the Arts.
Patrick is delighted to return to Northlight where he was seen as Mr. Kirby in last season’s You Can’t Take It With You. His other Northlight appearances include The Mousetrap, The Miser, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde and Pride and Prejudice. He has appeared in more than 60 productions with Chicago area theatres including the Goodman, Chicago Shakespeare, Steppenwolf, Writers and Remy Bumppo. His regional credits include appearances at Hartford Stage, the Asolo Repertory Theatre, Indiana Repertory Theatre, Cleveland Playhouse, Maltz Jupiter Theatre, Arena Stage, the Guthrie Theater, American Shakespeare Theatre, Centerstage, the Huntington Theatre and the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. He appeared on Broadway in Noises Off and Hollywood Arms. Film and Television credits include Empire, The Dark Knight, Chicago PD, Boss, The Untouchables and Early Edition.
Amanda returns to Northlight where she previously appeared in White Guy on the Bus and Funnyman. Other Chicago credits include: King Charles III (Chicago Shakespeare); Mary Page Marlowe (Steppenwolf), Venus in Fur and Measure for Measure (Goodman); Dutchman (American Blues); Last Train to Nibroc (Haven Theatre-Jeff Award, Best Actress); Rest (Victory Gardens); Pygmalion (Oak Park Festival); Great Expectations (Strawdog); Pride and Prejudice (Lifeline); hamlet is dead. no gravity, The Skriker, Brand, The Love of the Nightingale, and Pullman, WA (Red Tape); and sixteen shows with The Back Room Shakespeare Project. Regional credits include North Carolina & Michigan Shakespeare Festivals. TV credits: Chicago Med, Bobby & Iza. Film credits: The View From Tall. Ms. Drinkall holds a BFA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is represented by Gray Talent Group.
Francis returns to Northlight where he previously appeared in By the Water, White Guy On The Bus, Stella & Lou, Season’s Greetings and Inherit the Wind. Chicago credits include The Night Alive, The Birthday Party, Time Stands Still, The Book Thief, American Buffalo, Balm in Gilead and Say Goodnight, Gracie (Steppenwolf); The Book of Joseph (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre); Twist Your Dickens, Pullman Porter Blues and The Seagull (Goodman); A Guide for the Perplexed (Victory Gardens, Jeff Award); and Rantoul and Die (American Blues). He appeared on Broadway in August: Osage County, The Grapes of Wrath and As Is. His television credits include Boss, Eerie, Indiana, ER, Frasier and several Star Trek franchise episodes. Mr. Guinan’s film credits include Abundant Acreage Available, The Last Airbender, Typing, Low Tide and Constantine.
Joel couldn’t be more thrilled to be working at Northlight. He is a company member with Steep Theatre, where he performed in Bobby Clearly and Motortown (Joseph Jefferson Award Nomination). He is also a co-founder, writer, performer, and director for The LIVINGroom, a Solo Performance ensemble that tells personal, autobiographical, and universal stories live on stage. Other Chicago credits include A Loss of Roses, and Vieux Carré (Raven); Lisbon Traviata (Eclipse); Ecstasy (Cole Theatre); Love and Understanding (Redtwist); and The Brig (Mary Arrchie). When not on stage, he’s on the water, as a captain on the Chicago River. For any additional information about Joel, visit JoelReitsma.com. He thanks his family for their endless support and his wife, Laura, his everything.
Penny last appeared at Northlight in Into the Breeches!. Other Northlight productions include By the Water, You Can’t Take It With You, Chapatti, Sense & Sensibility and A Life. Chicago credits include: Sweet Bird of Youth (Goodman); Uncle Vanya (After Dark Award), The Importance of Being Earnest, James Joyce’s “The Dead” (Court); Old Glory, Another Part of the Forest (Jeff Award), Bus Stop, The Subject Was Roses (Writers). Regional: Silent Sky, A Murder is Announced, Chapatti, The Hollow (Peninsula Players); My Fair Lady (Asolo Repertory); Sense & Sensibility (Actors Theatre of Louisville and Saint Louis Repertory). International Theatre: Chapatti and Stella & Lou (Northlight at Galway International Arts Festival, Ireland), August: Osage County (Steppenwolf at Sydney Theatre, Australia). Film: Virginia, Meet the Browns, Grace is Gone. Television: The Connie Banks Show.
Sharyn is a playwright and television writer, whose plays and musicals have been workshopped and produced around the country, as well as internationally. Her play By The Water was first produced by Manhattan Theater Club and Ars Nova and was the recipient of the American Theater Critic’s Association Francesca Primus Prize. Her play All The Days was the recipient of the Edgerton Foundation Award and was produced at the McCarter Theater Center, directed by Emily Mann. In addition to playwriting, Sharyn is a writer and consulting producer for the USA Network drama SUITS. She is currently working on a television pilot for Apple, a theater commission from Manhattan Theater Club, as well as a stage adaptation of the beloved film Hester Street. In 2019, Sharyn’s comedy Tell Me I’m Not Crazy will premiere at The Williamstown Theater Festival and her drama Right To Be Forgotten will premiere at Arena Stage in Washington, DC. She holds an MFA in dramatic writing from NYU and a Masters in Public Health from Hunter College, with a concentration in Urban Health. She lives in Brooklyn with one husband, two kids, two cats and a mountain of laundry.
Cody returns to Northlight Theatre where he previously directed By the Water (named by Chicago Sun-Times honorable mention as one of the top theatre productions of 2017) and another seven productions as the assistant director under artistic director, BJ Jones. He is the artistic director of Raven Theatre where his directing credits include The Luckiest, Sundown, Yellow Moon, How I Learned To Drive (named by Windy City Times as the best of Chicago theatre in 2019), The Gentleman Caller (2019 Jeff Award winning new play by Philip Dawkins), The Assembled Parties, A Loss of Roses (named by Chicago Tribune honorable mention as one of the year’s best in 2016), Dividing the Estate, Vieux Carré (named by Chicago Tribune as one of the year’s best in 2014), Good Boys and True, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Boy Gets Girl, and Dating Walter Dante. Other directing credits include collaborations with Strawdog Theatre, Shattered Globe Theatre, First Floor Theatre, Redtwist Theatre, The Artistic Home, Haven Theatre, Mary-Arrchie Theatre, and Citadel Theatre. Cody was recently named one of NewCity’s Fifty People Who Really Perform For Chicago. He is a member of SDC, serves on the board of directors of the League of Chicago Theatres, and is an alumnus of Columbia College Chicago.
Jeffrey D. Kmiec
Jeffrey is an award-winning Chicago-based Theatrical Production Designer and Art Director. His designs have been seen at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, The Lyric Opera, Paramount Theatre, Drury Lane Theatre, Marriott Theatre, Timeline Theatre, American Players Theatre, Northlight Theatre, Porchlight, Raven Theatre, The Artistic Home, Illinois Shakespeare Festival, Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre, Heritage Theatre Festival, and The Children’s Theatre of Charlotte. He received three consecutive Equity Jeff Awards for his designs on The Little Mermaid at the Paramount Theatre (2017), Deathtrap at Drury Lane Theatre (2016), and Les Miserable at The Paramount Theatre (Co-Design with Kevin Depinet in 2015). Jeffrey received his MFA from the University of Virginia, BA from Illinois State University, and is a member of USA 829.
Northlight credits include The Beauty Queen of Leenane, The Legend of Georgia McBride, Relativity, By the Water, Charm, Shining Lives, Outside Mullingar, White Guy on the Bus, Detroit ’67, The Odd Couple, Ten Chimneys, Season’s Greetings, A Life, Grey Gardens, The Retreat From Moscow, Lady, Stella & Lou, The Outgoing Tide, Better Late and Chapatti (the last four also at the Galway International Arts Festival, Ireland). Other work has been seen at Lookingglass, Victory Gardens, About Face, Remy Bumppo, Writers, Steppenwolf and Walkabout. JR designed lighting for seven years of the Steppenwolf TRAFFIC Series, and five Steppenwolf performances in Chicago’s Millennium Park. He has served as head of the Lighting Department at Steppenwolf since 1995.
Rachel is honored to be joining Northlight for the 23rd time after last season’s By the Water and Relativity. Her designs have previously been seen Off Broadway at Pearl Theatre and regionally at Chicago Shakespeare, Steppenwolf First Look, Writers, Court, Milwaukee Rep, Great Lakes Theatre, Idaho Shakespeare, American Players, Florentine Opera, Drury Lane, Arizona Theatre Company, Resident Ensemble Players, Kansas City Rep, Utah Shakespeare, Actors Theatre Louisville, Illinois Shakespeare, Next Act, Peninsula Players, Remy Bumppo, Timeline, Chamber, Renaissance Theaterworks, Skylight Music Theatre, Arkansas Shakespeare, Children’s Theatre of Madison and University of Michigan. Other professional credits include NBC’S Law & Order, Chicago Opera Theatre, and Garsington Opera. Rachel is a recipient of a 2011 Emerging Artist Award from the University of Michigan and a 2009 Joseph Jefferson Award for Voysey Inheritance. www.rachellaritz.com
Sound Design & Original Music
Broadway: Slave Play, The Nap, Bronx Bombers, and A Time to Kill. Off Broadway: Privacy (The Public Theater), Bootycandy (Playwrights Horizons), Rx (Primary Stages), Top Secret (New York Theatre Workshop), and many others. International: Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford Festival, many others. Regional: South Coast Repertory, Arena Stage, Goodman, McCarter, Steppenwolf, Guthrie, Hartford Stage, Chicago Shakespeare, Woolly Mammoth, and others. Film scoring: The Brass Teapot (Magnolia Pictures) and the Academy Award–winning A Note of Triumph (HBO Films). Audio drama work includes A Streetcar Named Desire for Audible, and the award-winning weekly podcast for children The Imagination Neighborhood. Lindsay has received two Tony Award nominations for Best Score and Best Sound Design of a Play, seven Joseph Jefferson Awards and 24 nominations; two Ovation Awards and three nominations; and many others. www.lindsayjones.com.
Eva is a voice and text coach based in Chicago. Recent Chicago credits include Nell Gwynn (Chicago Shakespeare), Lady In Denmark (Goodman), The Doppelganger (Steppenwolf), Plantation! (Lookingglass), Master Class (Timeline), The Belle of Amherst (Court Theatre). Regional: Four seasons with American Players Theatre; Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley, The Who and the What, Always Patsy Cline (Milwaukee Rep); Love’s Labour’s Lost (Actor’s Theatre of Louisville); The Woman in Black (US Tour); Around The World In 80 Days (Baltimore Center Stage/Kansas City Repertory) and Mamma Mia! (National Tour/Las Vegas). Television: Empire, Betrayal, The Chicago Code. Eva is an associate artist at TimeLine Theatre Company.
Production Stage Manager
Mara is honored to be working on her first production at Northlight. Other Chicago credits include Blue Skies Process, Mother Road, The Magic Play and The Solid Sand Below (Goodman); Twist Your Dickens (three seasons), #DateMe, Afro-Futurism (Second City); Stick Fly (Windy City Playhouse); First Look (Steppenwolf); The Merry Wives of Windsor (First Folio) and Travesties and Our Class (Remy Bumppo). She previously spent eight seasons working on the Stage Management team at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, where her credits include Party People (world premiere), To Kill a Mockingbird, Henry IV Pt. 1 & 2, Hamlet, Death and the King’s Horseman, Much Ado About Nothing, Paradise Lost, The Clay Cart, The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler, On the Razzle, Tartuffe, Two Gentlemen of Verona and Bus Stop.
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