By the Water
Janet Ulrich Brooks, Amanda Drinkall and Penny Slusher

Mayor Rahm Emanuel once said, “You never let a serious crisis go to waste.” And Sharyn Rothstein doesn’t. In her award-winning play “By the Water,” Rothstein takes on Hurricane Sandy, focusing on a working-class Staten Island community devastated by the storm.

On the surface, the situation and characters may seem a far cry from the smartly-dressed and smart-mouthed attorneys on USA’s “Suits,” which Rothstein writes for, but both works offer a clever balance of drama and humor.

“I was initially drawn to Sharyn Rothstein’s play “By The Water” because it elevates these working-class families with such honesty, wit and empathy,” says Cody Estle, who is directing the Midwest Premiere at Northlight Theatre.

“Upon delving deeper into the world of her unorthodox family-drama, however, I discovered one of the most interesting aspects of her writing to be the journey she constructs for her central female character. I feel like so often in contemporary plays we watch the empowerment of young women despite their parents’ static embodiment of old-fashioned gender roles,” Estle continues. “Yet, Sharyn presents a mother of grown children, tethered to her husband financially and symbolically.

“We ultimately get to watch this woman reclaim her independence and subvert the very systems that oppressed her all these years. It is here that I truly note Sharyn’s unique and rare voice, as her sharp narrative explores these sensitive themes with bravery and gravitas,” concludes Estle. “I won’t share any more at the risk of spoiling the details of Sharyn’s engaging play but I can’t wait for audiences to experience it at Northlight Theatre.”

Francis Guinan, Penny Slusher, Janet Ulrich Brooks, Jordan Brown, Patrick Clear, Amanda Drinkall and Joel Reitsma are featured in “By The Water,” which performs through April 23 at North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Boulevard, Skokie. A series of related events take place through April 15, as noted below.

Inside Look: By The Water
March 29, 10:45 a.m.
Director Cody Estle discusses the cultural and environmental context of By the Water during a one-hour Q&A session that is free and open to the public at JCC in Northbrook, 300 Revere Dr.

Changing Climate, Changing Lives
April 1, 4 p.m.
The ways in which the changing environment affects everyone is addressed by a panel of experts including: Aaron Packman, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Northwestern University; Anna Roosevelt, American archaeologist and Professor of Anthropology University of Illinois at Chicago; Robert A. Dalrymple, Willard & Lillian Hackerman Professor of Civil Engineering, Johns Hopkins University; and Katie Freeman, Director of Operations, Hagerty Consulting at the Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Ave. Reservations are recommended at 847-448-8620.

By The Water Open Captioning
April 15, 2:30 p.m.
A text display of words and sounds is offered during the performance for patrons with hearing disabilities. To reserve seats with a view of captions, call 847-673-6300 and request the Open Captioning section. For all other tickets ($15-$81) and more information, visit

Ms. Arvia is a Rebellious columnist and movie critic; entertainment ghostwriter; award-winning artist; and grant-winning filmmaker.

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