Playing through this weekend at Premiere Stages at Kean University is the play “By the Water” by Sharyn Rothstein. Directed by Adam Immerwahr, this presentation centers on a family whose home was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. It provides theater goers with an opportunity to experience the grief of realizing what happens when a home and a community are destroyed by nature’s fury. Producing Artistic Director John J. Wooten writes in his opening message in the program:
“This play is a testament to those local residents who were knocked down by Hurricane Sandy but refused to be beaten by it.”
“By the Water” was commissioned by The Writer’s Room (Manhattan Club, Ars Nova) and had its world premiere at the Manhattan Theatre Club November 4, 2014. The timing for presentation in New Jersey matched the 1000 day anniversary of the storm which was Sunday, July 26, 2015.
The play begins as Mary and Marty Murphy return to their house in Staten Island, NY after the storm. Their home for over 30 years, it is now in terrible need of many repairs, new utilities, and furnishings. As they contact the insurance company and plan to rebuild, their two sons, successful Sal and down on his luck Brian come to see them. As the plot unfold, we learn that there have been incidents between these family members that have caused problems and tensions remain. The Murphy family’s very good friends, the Carters, also come in to present a completely opposite viewpoint from the one the Murphy’s have to remain in the neighborhood. But in the midst of all of this, Marty decides to lead a community campaign to get rid of the federal buyout program of the area. As he fights to hold onto the house, we learn much about the dynamics within this family and why he is fighting to save the house. The rebuilding plans get revised along the way leading to a rather optimistic ending as each family member appears to be entering a new phase of their lives.
Not only is the story well told, but the acting is very well done. The cast includes Brain O’Neill (Marty Murphy), Jo Twins (Mary Murphy), Mike DiSalvo (Sal Murphy), Billy Finn (Brian Murphy), Damian Buzzerio (Philip Carter), Sheila Stasack (Andrea Carter), and Deanna McGovern (Emily Mancini).
The bleakness of the stage setting adds to the intent of the story as it takes place and great care is taken to show some kind of repairs taking place to the house. Be careful when entering the theater as there are props laying on the stage to simulate the destruction left behind by the storm.
“By the Water” runs 90 minutes with no intermission at Premiere Stages at Kean University, 1000 Morris Avenue, Union NJ. For more information about tickets, visit the Premier Stages website at http://www.kean.edu/premierestages. This show runs through Sunday, Aug. 2.