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A CurtainUp DC Review
Water by the Spoonful
Haikumom (Gabriela Fernandez-Coffey) is the chat room's bossy administrator. She's been in recovery for a long time but paid a steep price for her addiction. Orangutan, born in Japan but adopted at a very early age by an American couple, is desperate but scared to know more about her background. Amy Kim Waschke plays her as a fierce hysteric who increasingly accentuates her troubles and volume. Of all the characters and performers for that matter, she is the least likeable and the most over-the-top. Her relationship with Chutes & Ladders (a graceful and endearing Vincent J. Brown), a low level employee of the IRS who is estranged from his son, is far-fetched. Tim Getman as Fountainhead, the successful businessman with a happy family and a lust for dope, displays his weakness and his strength in equal measure. That's the online community. We learn what sense of humanity they have in the second act.
Added to these characters are the cousins Gisela Chipe as Yazmin, who has managed to overcome her background of poverty in the Puerto Rican ghetto of Philadelphia to become a professor of music at Swathmore. To illustrate her knowledge and success, playwright Hudes (who was a student of music composition at Yale) has Yaz do a tutor's riff on Coltrane's jazz. It's a pleasant interlude between histrionics but not really pertinent to the play's themes unless you buy the author's notion of the relevance of its dissonance.
Arturo Soria gives a very strong performance as Elliot, the wounded ex-Marine back from Iraq, who is haunted by nightmares. He'd like to be an actor but for the time being he is making sandwiches at Subway. His telling of a very sad story about his youth is truly the heart of Water by the Spoonful and the origin of its title.
KJ Sanchez's fast-moving direction keeps the dialogue sharp. But Sanchez has her actors yell a lot which takes away from any empathy they might have illicited. Water by the Spoonful won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama over Jon Robin Bates's Other Desert Cities, considered by many to be the better play. Two other plays by Quiara Alegria Hudes have been nominated for Pulitzers. Clearly she has a voice that Artistic Directors and prize givers like to hear.
op Editor's Note: As the second play in the trilogy opens in DC, the finale is running at New York's Second Stage. To read the review of this (which also links to other productions of Water by the Spoonful) go here .