Review: Water by the Spoonful from Different Stages Theater – Arts
(Left to right) Stan McDowell, Annie Kim Hedrick, Tonie Knight and Beau Paul in Water by the spoonful (Photo by Steve Rogers Photography)
The thing that immediately catches your eye during the moving production of Different Stages by Quiara Alegría Hudes Water by the spoonful – that is, after realizing the play won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama – is its musicality. Trained as a composer and known for writing the book that drives the Tony Award-winning musical In the heightsHudes’ words ring out like lyrics, scenes change pitch and tempo seamlessly, and the script calls for the dissonant strings of the late jazz great John Coltrane to play in the background, serving as a metaphor for people’s disheveled lives. who populate this game.
Spoonfu waterI is the second part of Hudes’ Elliot trilogy (preceded by Elliot, A Soldier’s Runaway and followed by The happiest song plays last) and begins with the death of the beloved matriarch, Ginny. He then traces her effect on those she left behind: her nephew Elliot, an emotionally and physically wounded Iraq War veteran (Jonathan Castillo) whom Ginny raised from childhood; his daughter, Yazmin (Alejandra Bucio), who is an assistant music teacher; and her sister Odessa (Tonie Knight), a former crack addict and Elliot’s biological mother.
Odessa runs an online support group for recovering drug addicts, where she uses the pseudonym Haikumom and distributes tough 17-syllable love to a core group of fellow travelers who go by the usernames Orangutan (Annie Kim Hedrick), Falls & Ladders (Stan McDowell) and Fountainhead (Beau-Paul). It’s a play about regret, relapse and restitution. And it’s about families – the ones we form and the ones we’re born into.
Director Brogan Lozano finds heart and humor in this story while respectfully maintaining the seriousness it needs. And its actors brilliantly capture their characters’ respective forms of fragility and prove uniquely adept at delivering the Pulitzer Prize-worthy poetry found in the script. “I want to catch the sky and break it to pieces” by Yaz, “I’m a baby in a basket on an endless river” by Orangutan and the tender and well-meaning wisdom of Haikumom’s bumper stickers could easily pass for schmaltzy pablum in lesser hands. On opening night, Castillo’s effort to find the right level of intensity in his portrayal of the complicated Elliot was still a work in progress.
While this piece needs little embellishment, Gary Thornsberry’s no-frills stage design in the Vortex’s black box theater space and Amy Lewis’ often late dramatic lighting do little to round out the performance, though the three-level spacing of the member chat room frames the action nicely. With the exception of Nikki Zook’s costumes and the rings and tinkles that make up much of Jeff Miller’s sound design, little creativity or craftsmanship was required to establish a sense of time and place in this production. or create an ethereal appearance for the Iraqi ghost (Michael Costilla) that haunts Elliot’s waking hours. While the design elements are disappointing, they aren’t a deal-breaker considering this game and performance.
Water by the spoonful unfolds as its title suggests – one measured drop at a time. It is only after these drops accumulate that one understands the true meaning of the title and fully appreciates what appears in the script and on stage.
Different theater scenes Water by the spoonful
The Vortex, Mansion 2307
Until December 3