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Manhattan Theatre Club Presents "By the Water" at Stage II, New York City Center
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Manhattan Theatre Club Presents "By the Water" at Stage II, New York City Center

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Manhattan Theatre Club
Harold and Mimi Steinberg New Play Series

In association with Ars Nova

By the Water

By Sharon Rothstein
Directed by Hal Brooks

The Studio at Stage II at New York City Center
West 55th Street, Btw. 6th and 7th Avenues

Artistic Director, Lynne Meadow
Executive Producer, Barry Grove

Cassie Beck, Quincy Dunn-Baker, Charlotte Maier
Dierdre OíConnell, Tom Pelphrey, Ethan Phillips, Vyto Ruginis

Scenic Design: Wilson Chin
Costume Design: Jessica Pabst
Lighting Design: Tyler Micoleau
Original Music & Sound Design: Ryan Rumery
Dialect Coach: Ben Furey
Production Stage Manager: E. Sara Barnes
Casting: Nancy Piccione & Kelly Gillespie
General Manager: Florie Seery
Director of Artistic Development: Jerry Patch
Director of Marketing: Debra Waxman-Pilla
Artistic Line Producer: Barclay Stiff
General Manager By the Water: Lindsay Sag
Director of Development: Lynne Randall
Production Manager: Joshua Helman
Press Representative: Boneau/Bryan-Brown

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 26, 2014

Of the seven actors in Sharon Rothsteinís new play, produced by Manhattan Theatre Club at City Center Stage II, I had already seen and favorably reviewed six. In By the Water, Vyto Ruginis and Dierdre OíConnell (Circle Mirror Transformation) are Marty and Mary Murphy, whose storm-battered living room, on the shore in Staten Island, is the setting. Their sons Sal, Quincy Dunn-Baker (The Wayside Motor Inn), and Brian, Tom Pelphrey (End of the Rainbow), have a conflicted sibling relationship, as Sal had reported Brianís drug problems to the police, sending Brian to jail. Marty and Maryís close friends, Philip Carter, Ethan Phillips (All the Way), and wife Andrea, Charlotte Maier (Act One, The Columnist), are trying to get the majority of the townís homeowners to accept a government buyout of their homes, so they can afford to resettle, after the brutal destruction of October, 2012ís Hurricane Sandy. The Carterís daughter, Emily, Cassie Beck (Picnic), is in an intimate relationship, second time around, with Brian Murphy, as his release from jail coincided with Emilyís divorce.

Wilson Chinís threadbare, yet unkempt setting, in the small Stage II theater, shows a large, glass-less window, revealing loss of the roof, as well, with discarded, damaged bits of property surrounding the edge of the stage. Furniture is temporary, with characters sitting on crates and a shabby loveseat, somewhat metaphorical. Also metaphorical is the storm-battered scene, housing a storm-battered family, fighting to rebuild trust, as well as walls. Marty has lost his supermarkets, while surviving a battle with the IRS, Mary has stood by her spouse, along with his bossiness and neediness, Sal has moved on, now living a married (offstage wife), upscale lifestyle in Manhattan, selling profitable internet ads, and Brian has walked out of two years of prison, after his brotherís tips to police. The Carters have had their own travails, but theyíre ready to move on, away from the wind-strewn beaches. Marty and Philip create and weather their own battle, as Marty tries to lobby the neighbors to reject the funded offers and to stay and rebuild. Eventually, the Murphys come together in persuasive poignancy. Brian and Emily find some climbing rocks, spotlighted to appear further offstage. There they find new ways to communicate, as well, creating stronger bonds between the two families.

All characters are well cast, filled with longing, vulnerability, inherent warmth, and a palpable craving for their newly burnished bondings. Hal Brooks, Director, whoís also Artistic Director of the Pearl Theatre Company, favorably reviewed for his directing of the Pearlís plays, did a splendid job here. No scene is rushed, although this is a one-act play, and each characterís evolving persona is clearly etched and understood. The Staten Island accents, along with Salís smoother speech, give this production astounding authenticity, thanks to Dialect Coach, Ben Furey. Jessica Pabstís costumes, of furry boots, jeans, heavy sweaters, and scarves add the sense of a constant chill. Tyler Micoleauís lighting shows bright blue or blackness outside, while Ryan Rumeryís sound adds seagulls and washing waves, as well as musical interludes. I look forward to future plays by Ms. Rothstein and future productions in this intimate City Center Stage II. Kudos to all.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at