Saturday, November 29, 2014

By the Water ***

This new family drama with comic overtones, the first product of a collaboration between Manhattan Theater Club and Ars Nova at The Studio at Stage II at City Center, bodes well for their cooperative effort. Playwright Sharon Rothstein depicts the devastating effects of Superstorm Sandy on the Murphy family of Staten Island. Not only has the storm extensively damaged their home and neighborhood, it has uncovered long-standing family tensions and secrets. Marty (Vyto Ruginis) and Mary Murphy (the wonderful Deirdre O’Connell) seem determined to repair and remain in their home. The Murphys’ older son Sal (Quincy Dunn-Baker), who has married and made a successful life for himself in Manhattan, makes a rare appearance to persuade his parents to sell. Their younger son Brian (Tom Pelphrey), a recovering addict recently out of jail, also turns up, but he supports his father’s wishes. There is bad blood between the brothers. We learn that Marty is no saint either — he barely escaped jail for tax evasion and lost the family business. Their long-time neighbors Philip (Ethan Phillips) and Andrea Carter (Charlotte Maier), whose home has been destroyed, want to take a government buyout and relocate. Marty’s campaign to prevent the buyout plan from reaching the necessary 80% consensus puts a strain on their friendship. When it turns out that Marty’s determination to stay put has reasons that are far from noble, even Mary’s relationship with him is shaken. If all that were not enough plot, there is a rekindling of feelings between Brian and the Carters’ divorced daughter Emily (Cassie Beck). What holds it all together is Rothstein’s skill in creating vivid, believable, complex characters and convincing dialogue. Wilson Chin’s set makes the devastation very real and Jessica Pabst’s costumes reflect their characters well. Director Hal Brooks elicits fine work from a strong cast. Running time: 95 minutes, no intermission. 

No comments: