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Water by the Spoonful, a CurtainUp Connecticut Review

Water by the Spoonful won the Pulitzer Prize and in January of 2013 had its New York premiere at Second Stage. To read the review of that production by Elyse Sommer go here

Water by the Spoonful/i>< reviewed by >Rosalind Friedman

Fountainhead, welcome to the dinner party. Granted, it’s a party we never wanted to be invited to, but pull up a chair and pass the salt. Some people here may pour it into your wounds. Just like you, we’ve all crawled on the floor with a flashlight. . .But guess what? . . .For three days straight, you didn’t try to kill yourself on an hourly basis. . .you are in for the fight of your life. . .If you’re still in the area and you have an emergency or even a craving, email me offline. . .I know you can do this but I know you can’t do it alone. — Haikumom to Fountainhead.
Water by the Spoonful
Liza Colon-Zayás, Zabryna Guevara, Armando Riesco and Matthew Boston (sitting). (Photo: T. Charles Erickson)

Many plays are issue driven. Water by the Spoonful, an interesting new play and the second in a trilogy by Quiara Alegria Hudes, is character-driven.

Hudes, who received a Tony award nomination for Best Book of a Musical for the award-winning In the Heights, etches each of her seven-member cast with painful precision. She also uses the internet to propel the action of the play.

Davis McCallum directs. Neil Patel’s widespread set lit intensely by Russell H. Champa accommodates the various locations — Philadelphia, San Diego, various cities in Japan, and Puerto Rico.

The story revolves around two cousins, Elliot (Armando Resco), and Yazmin (Zabryna Guevara) Ellot is an injured former Marine who is bedeviled by nightmares from his time in Iraq . He takes drugs and is as the play opens is caring for the unseen but dearly-loved aunt, Ginny who raised him and is dying of cancer. Yazmin, a first year adjunct professor of music is in love with John Coltran's music and tries to comfort Elliot. She is the play's only character who is not addicted.

It takes a bit to get into the rhythm of these disparate people with their unique user names. There is Japanese born adoptee Orangutan (Teresa Avia-Lin) whose real name is Madeline Mays, and Yoshiko Sakai before she was adopted. When she decides to travel to Japan to find her birth parents, she unburdens her heart to Chutes & Ladders (Ray Anthony Thomas), an African-American man who works for the IRS and has been deserted by his own family. Thomas adds wonderful warmth, which is greatly missing from this play. Though he advises Orangutan against going he courageously ends up joining her in Tokyo. Finally there is the wealthy Fountainhead (Matthew Boston), who feels he is only psychologically addicted, yet cannot confide in his wife.

Demosthenes Chrysan plays three parts. As the Professor, Chrysan has little to do but to translate a phrase in Arabic for Elliot, which seems to mean –Do you have your passport? We do not know why that question is being asked. As a Ghost, he is draped in robes and fights with Elliot to indicate the fear that the former Marine is experiencing. As the Policeman, he finds Odessa OD’d on the floor of her apartment.

While the playwright presents her characters creatively, she does not solve the larger problems that she puts forth: Her addicts remain to fight for another day of success, but there is no actual or over-arching plot.

The title, Water by the Spoonful refers to a terrible incident with Odessa and her baby daughter. It's one of a number of depressing moments, but things end on a hopeful note thanks to a surprise move by Yazmin.

Water by the Spoonful is a recipient if an Edgerton Foundation's new American Plays award.
Water by the Spoonful by Quiara Alegria Hudes
Directed by David McCallum
Cast: Armand Riesco (Elliot), Zabryna Guevara (Yazmin), Demosthenes Chrysan (Professor Aman/Ghost/Policeman), Liza Colon-Zayas (Odessa), Teresa Avia Lim (Orangutan), Ray Anthony Thomas (Chutes&Ladders), Matthew Boston (Fountainhead)
Set& Projection: Neil Patel
Costume: Chloe Chapin
Lighting: Russell H. Champa
Sound: Bray Poor
Composer: J. Michael Friedman
Fight Coordinator: Thom Delventhal
At Hartford Stage 50 Church Street
Hartford, CT 06103 Phone: 860-527-5151 From 10/20/11; closing 11/13/11
Reviewed by R. Friedman
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