4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Dance on a minefield

The Old Globe serves Water by the Spoonful.

In the Old Globe’s Water by the Spoonful, recovering addicts find support in a chat room.
In the Old Globe’s Water by the Spoonful, recovering addicts find support in a chat room.

Water by the Spoonful

Quiara Alegria Hudes’s Water by the Spoonful won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2012, and deserved it. Judging by the Old Globe Theatre’s bland, by-the-numbers opening-night performance, you’d wonder why.

Do you know a crack-head? Know any “rock-heads” addicted to “eight-balls”? Know any “cluckers” in recovery? No? The production doesn’t either.

Hudes writes terse, funny, street-authentic dialogue. Her characters are in such hell, a spoonful of water every five minutes would bless beyond price. Those in recovery talk “real”; they power-bomb each other with tough love and “crack humor.” The latter triggers laughter and torches illusions.

Two of the most important plays of the past few years — Water and Lisa D’Amour’s Detroit — are about addiction. An unpleasant subject to be sure. But the teachers, the healers — nay, the heroes — in both are recovering addicts, half out of hell, determined to help others. In Detroit, where the foreclosed neighborhood resembles a combat zone, they perform a surprising therapy. In Water, the gravest sinner, Haikumom, is a saint, at least to her extended, chat-room family.

Both plays call for radical recovery. And not just from drugs. In Detroit, a jobless couple was “addicted” to a middle-class lifestyle that failed them. They’re so entrenched, only a severe choice can reinvent them — even if it means torching the old ways.

In Water, Elliot Ortiz, a wounded, honorably discharged Marine, had a horrific experience in the Iraq war. Crack users maniacally “chase the ghost” of their first euphoric hit. Elliot’s the opposite: a ghost chases him. Traditional coping mechanisms and piles of pain-killers aren’t cutting it.

When they were children, Elliot’s mother abandoned him and his sister in a time of grave need. It’s 2009. Back from the war with re-entry shock and a damaged leg, Elliot works at Subway; he also does TV commercials and aspires to Hollywood stardom (each of Hudes’s characters has inner extremes: enough baggage for an airport terminal and occasional glimmers of grace). Except for his cousin Yaz, an adjunct music teacher, Elliot has no connections. He’s so addicted to alienation, he wouldn’t march in his “own parade.”

Haikumom — a name dripping with irony, we learn later — home-schools recovering addicts long-distance. A junkie “who dug lower than the dungeon,” she created a chat-room on the internet. She counsels with strict rules, censors foul language. Among her hyperspace connections: Chutes&Ladders (a “non-confrontational” African-American man in San Diego), Orangutan (Japanese-American woman wanting to see the birth parents who abandoned her), and Fountainhead. A rich “newby,” he takes such pride in his condition, his chat-mates try to gouge him a new one.

Fountainhead, who wrecked his Porsche and once headed a large company, doesn’t fit the “crack-head” stereotype. But then none of the characters do. All are articulate and come from various social classes. What they share is what the Globe’s opening night missed: the desperate, hour-by-hour firefight against giving in. They crave, they burn in hell, but the cast rarely conveyed the tangled immensity of that “jones.”

As one character says, “it’s like trying to dance on a minefield.”

Water should tighten like a tourniquet. Too often the cast played the idea of a “chat” room literally. They spoke in narrow, edgeless tones. There was too much “air” — space between deliveries — in the dialogue. The pace lagged throughout. Portrayals lacked nuance.

Marilyn Torres’s Haikumom always conveyed an inner life; a tormented past bubbled below. The others stayed near the surface in varying degrees. Rey Lucas gave Elliot a viable arc but until the end, was two-dimensional, as were Rubio Qian (Orangutan) and Sarah Nina Hayon (Yazmin). As Chutes&ladders, Keith Randolph Smith had a stable presence and many of the best lines, though his measured voice felt mannered. As Fountainhead, Robert Eli was obviously playing against the stereotype. But he was so glib it looked like Fountainhead wanted to cut down on calories, not cut away from the “hard iron” of crack (actor note: play the “jones”).

Along with the need for radical recovery — which, given the economic crisis, myriad foreclosures, and joblessness, could be a metaphor for these times — Water is also about movement and stasis. The characters communicate globally, via the internet, but are immobile. Ralph Funicello’s set nicely portrays cyberspace: a jazzy, multicolored floor and colored wires flashing above, but passes on Hudes’s homey, “cracked” details: “a duct-taped La-Z-Boy, salvaged trash,” and “busted up” chairs, the “worn-in feel of life.”


Water by the Spoonful, by Quiara Alegria Hudes

Place

Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre

1363 Old Globe Way, San Diego

Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, Old Globe Theatre, Balboa Park

Directed by Edward Torres; cast: Robert Eli, Sarah Nina Hayon, Rey Lucas, M. Keala Miles, Jr., Rubio Qian, Keith Randolph Smith, Marilyn Torres; scenic design, Ralph Funicello; costumes, David Israel Reynoso; lighting, Jesse Klug; sound, Mikhail Fiksel

Playing through May 11; Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:00 p.m., Thursday through Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Sunday at 7:00 p.m. Matinee Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. 619-234-5623

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Motherhood unvarnished: Andrea Yates, Prozac, Pine Valley

Crown Point, barf city, miscarriage, Legoland, how big I am, emptied breasts
Next Article

Little Italy Scavanger Hunt, Jason Mraz

Events September 26-September 29, 2021
In the Old Globe’s Water by the Spoonful, recovering addicts find support in a chat room.
In the Old Globe’s Water by the Spoonful, recovering addicts find support in a chat room.

Water by the Spoonful

Quiara Alegria Hudes’s Water by the Spoonful won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2012, and deserved it. Judging by the Old Globe Theatre’s bland, by-the-numbers opening-night performance, you’d wonder why.

Do you know a crack-head? Know any “rock-heads” addicted to “eight-balls”? Know any “cluckers” in recovery? No? The production doesn’t either.

Hudes writes terse, funny, street-authentic dialogue. Her characters are in such hell, a spoonful of water every five minutes would bless beyond price. Those in recovery talk “real”; they power-bomb each other with tough love and “crack humor.” The latter triggers laughter and torches illusions.

Two of the most important plays of the past few years — Water and Lisa D’Amour’s Detroit — are about addiction. An unpleasant subject to be sure. But the teachers, the healers — nay, the heroes — in both are recovering addicts, half out of hell, determined to help others. In Detroit, where the foreclosed neighborhood resembles a combat zone, they perform a surprising therapy. In Water, the gravest sinner, Haikumom, is a saint, at least to her extended, chat-room family.

Both plays call for radical recovery. And not just from drugs. In Detroit, a jobless couple was “addicted” to a middle-class lifestyle that failed them. They’re so entrenched, only a severe choice can reinvent them — even if it means torching the old ways.

In Water, Elliot Ortiz, a wounded, honorably discharged Marine, had a horrific experience in the Iraq war. Crack users maniacally “chase the ghost” of their first euphoric hit. Elliot’s the opposite: a ghost chases him. Traditional coping mechanisms and piles of pain-killers aren’t cutting it.

When they were children, Elliot’s mother abandoned him and his sister in a time of grave need. It’s 2009. Back from the war with re-entry shock and a damaged leg, Elliot works at Subway; he also does TV commercials and aspires to Hollywood stardom (each of Hudes’s characters has inner extremes: enough baggage for an airport terminal and occasional glimmers of grace). Except for his cousin Yaz, an adjunct music teacher, Elliot has no connections. He’s so addicted to alienation, he wouldn’t march in his “own parade.”

Haikumom — a name dripping with irony, we learn later — home-schools recovering addicts long-distance. A junkie “who dug lower than the dungeon,” she created a chat-room on the internet. She counsels with strict rules, censors foul language. Among her hyperspace connections: Chutes&Ladders (a “non-confrontational” African-American man in San Diego), Orangutan (Japanese-American woman wanting to see the birth parents who abandoned her), and Fountainhead. A rich “newby,” he takes such pride in his condition, his chat-mates try to gouge him a new one.

Fountainhead, who wrecked his Porsche and once headed a large company, doesn’t fit the “crack-head” stereotype. But then none of the characters do. All are articulate and come from various social classes. What they share is what the Globe’s opening night missed: the desperate, hour-by-hour firefight against giving in. They crave, they burn in hell, but the cast rarely conveyed the tangled immensity of that “jones.”

As one character says, “it’s like trying to dance on a minefield.”

Water should tighten like a tourniquet. Too often the cast played the idea of a “chat” room literally. They spoke in narrow, edgeless tones. There was too much “air” — space between deliveries — in the dialogue. The pace lagged throughout. Portrayals lacked nuance.

Marilyn Torres’s Haikumom always conveyed an inner life; a tormented past bubbled below. The others stayed near the surface in varying degrees. Rey Lucas gave Elliot a viable arc but until the end, was two-dimensional, as were Rubio Qian (Orangutan) and Sarah Nina Hayon (Yazmin). As Chutes&ladders, Keith Randolph Smith had a stable presence and many of the best lines, though his measured voice felt mannered. As Fountainhead, Robert Eli was obviously playing against the stereotype. But he was so glib it looked like Fountainhead wanted to cut down on calories, not cut away from the “hard iron” of crack (actor note: play the “jones”).

Along with the need for radical recovery — which, given the economic crisis, myriad foreclosures, and joblessness, could be a metaphor for these times — Water is also about movement and stasis. The characters communicate globally, via the internet, but are immobile. Ralph Funicello’s set nicely portrays cyberspace: a jazzy, multicolored floor and colored wires flashing above, but passes on Hudes’s homey, “cracked” details: “a duct-taped La-Z-Boy, salvaged trash,” and “busted up” chairs, the “worn-in feel of life.”


Water by the Spoonful, by Quiara Alegria Hudes

Place

Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre

1363 Old Globe Way, San Diego

Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, Old Globe Theatre, Balboa Park

Directed by Edward Torres; cast: Robert Eli, Sarah Nina Hayon, Rey Lucas, M. Keala Miles, Jr., Rubio Qian, Keith Randolph Smith, Marilyn Torres; scenic design, Ralph Funicello; costumes, David Israel Reynoso; lighting, Jesse Klug; sound, Mikhail Fiksel

Playing through May 11; Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:00 p.m., Thursday through Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Sunday at 7:00 p.m. Matinee Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. 619-234-5623

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Everyone has a spot at the rail

San Diego, home of the world’s largest live bait sportfishing fleet.
Next Article

Triangle-shaped in Solana Beach

The “manicured grounds” add a pop of color to an exterior that’s otherwise black, white
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Outdoors — Weekly changes in flora and fauna Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Street Style — San Diego streets have style Surf Diego — Real stories from those braving the waves Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close