Directed by Henry Godinez
At Court Theatre, Chicago
Over theatricals mare quirky play
I was baffled by director Henry Godnez’s use of swift movement that found his seven member cast walking and running about the stage in circular and dance sequences. But once they stopped, the work became a darkly comic work about one Puerto Rican family’s troubles with crack addiction as well as the effects of Elliot’s traumatic adventures in the Iraq War.
Water by the Spoonful, amazingly, won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It is the second work in Hudes’ Elliott Cycle. This work is a series of scenes that jump about from the Ortiz family story featuring Elliot (Edgar Miguel Sanchez) and his addicted mother, Odessa, aka Haikumon online (Charin Alvarez). We see Elliot as a mad-at-the world Iraq War veteran struggling with the ghost of an Iraqi man he killed.
Interspersed, are the four members of an online support group of crack cocaine addicts as each struggle daily with their addiction. We see Haikumon lead the group and be its censor for foul language. She can lead the group yet she can’t seem to handle her life off line. The Internet becomes a place of safety and understanding for these addicts. We see their struggles for redemption from their constant personal failings due to their drug use. We how Chutes&Ladders (Dexter Zollicoffer) fights to stay clear. Fountainhead (Daniel Cantor) is in denial that he is an addict yet his family obligations somewhat motivate him to get and stay clean. Orangutan (Marissa Lichwick) is the Asian-American who travels back to Japan in search of her birth parents as her means of cleansing her addiction.
Add Yaznin Ortiz (Yadira Correa), Elliot’s older cousin, the music professor who loves John Coltran’s jazz music especially his use of dissonance ( two note that don’t seem to go together but do). She tries to stabilize the family and help both Odessa and Elliot cure their demons.
This work covers from Philadelphia to Japan to San Diego to Puerto Rico back to Iraq. As this work jumps around from story to story, it comes off to me as confusing, over staged work about a group of addicts with whom I have little empathy. There are too many relapses and hostile encounters by most of the characters for me to care about them. I’s like to know more about Elliot’s traumatic experience in Iraq so that maybe I could care about him but given what i do know, I simply don’t care.
While it sure was tragic how Odessa, play with haunting realism by Charin Alvarez, disintegrated physically and emotionally, again she ultimately came off as another pathetic addict. If this play is suppose to be about forgiveness and redemption (as the press note indicate), I sure didn’t get that from what I witnessed. The characters tended to aggravate me more that evoke any empathy. I left the play wondering what I missed to maybe make this worth seeing? I wanted to know more about Elliot.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: March 15, 2014
For more info checkout the Water by the Spoonful page at theatreinchicago.com
At Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis, Chicago, IL, call 773-753-4472, www.courttheatre.org, tickets $45 – $65, Wednesdays 7 Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 3 & 8 pm, Sundays at 2:30 & 7:30 pm, running time is 2 hours, 15 minutes with intermission, through April 6, 2014