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Home / Articles / Arts / Theater /  ‘Water by the Spoonful’ takes on demons at The Old Globe
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Wednesday, Apr 23, 2014

‘Water by the Spoonful’ takes on demons at The Old Globe

Quiara Alegria Hudes’ play tops our coverage of local productions

By David L. Coddon
theater Marilyn Torres and Rey Lucas
- Photo by Jim Cox

Water by the Spoonful, the second play in Quiara Alegria Hudes’ three-work Elliot Cycle, continues the story of Puerto Rican Elliot Ortiz, an honorably discharged Marine who served in Iraq and returns to America with a fair share of personal demons. The 2012 Pulitzer Prize-winning work is now on stage at The Old Globe’s Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, a small space that’s conducive to a story that traffics heavily in connections— broken ones and ones aspired to. A prevailing sense of claustrophobia deepens the personal hells of crack addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder and family tragedy.

Still, Water by the Spoonful is uplifting in its moments of forgiveness and courage.

Elliot’s (Rey Lucas) struggles are many: He’s addicted to pain pills and haunted by a specter from his military past, his adoptive mother (his aunt) has died, he wants a Hollywood career instead of one making sandwiches at Subway and his birth mother is a recovering crack head. How much can one angry young man bear?

The play’s parallel plot, which becomes one with the main in Act 2, involves a cyberspace chat site for crack addicts. The site manager is Odessa (Marilyn Torres), who happens to be that birth mother from whom Elliot’s estranged. Conversing back and forth in cyber-recovery are “Orangutan” (Ruibo Qian) and “Chutes&Ladders” (Keith Randolph Smith), with a newbie to the site, “Fountainhead” (Robert Eli), fighting a battle of his own against denial. The trouble with this part of the play is that in today’s era of instantaneous texting and tweeting, chat-room conversation seems so slow. Before the Odessa and Elliot stories converge in Act 2, the chat-site scenes in Act 1 feel like an interruption of the more urgent events of Elliot’s tumbledown life. That said, the Globe’s staging of the Internet sequences, with use of laser-like connecting lines on the floor and in the rafters, is inspired, and, to some extent, the fledgling relationship between “Orangutan” and “Chutes&Ladders” is the play’s most satisfying element.

Edward Torres directs a visually powerful production that’s rife with big statements— perhaps too many. Water by the Spoonful will leave you wrung out.

It runs through May 11 at The Old Globe Theatre. $29 and up.

Write to and


Jungle Book: In San Diego State University’s adaptation of the classic story, the adventures of Mowgli, Bagheera, Baloo and Shere Kahn are set in a secret jungle in Balboa Park. Opens April 25 at SDSU’s Don Powell Theatre.

Old Jews Telling Jokes: A comedy revue featuring five actors paying homage to classic jokes, inspired by a website of the same name. Opens April 23 at the Lyceum Theatre at Horton Plaza, Downtown.

Simply Shakespeare / As You Like It: To celebrate William Shakespeare’s birthday (and death day), San Diego Actors Theatre will perform a staged reading of As You Like It—right after the actors draw names of characters from a hat. It happens on April 23 in the Crivello Theatre at Francis Parker School in Linda Vista.

Thrill Me: The Leopold & Loeb Story: A musical based on the true 1924 story of two young men who murdered a young boy for the thrill of it. Opens April 24 at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights.

What You Will: Roger Rees (who played Lord John Marbury on The West Wing) presents his own one-man show, a recounting of his more than two decades’ experience acting in William Shakespeare’s plays, with lots of funny anecdotes and performances of the Bard’s speeches.

Now playing

Wagner New Play Festival: The annual series of plays—three full-lengths, two one-acts and a staged reading—written, directed and performed by UCSD graduate students. Through April 26 on several UCSD stages.

The Liar: An adaptation by David Ives of a 17th-century play about a man who tells multiple fibs as he courts one of two sisters, mistakenly believing she’s the other sibling. Through April 27 at Scripps Ranch Theatre.

Quilters: A musical about the lives of pioneer women in the American Old West. Through April 27 at Lamb’s Players Theatre in Coronado.

Red: A successful abstract-expressionist painter must create a piece for the Four Seasons restaurant but is dogged by persistent challenges from his opinionated assistant. Presented by San Diego Repertory Theatre, it runs through April 27 at the Lyceum Theatre at Horton Plaza, Downtown.

Spring Awakening: That awakening is a sexual one, experienced by young adults in a small German town, set to music by Duncan Sheik. Presented by Cygnet Theatre, it opens runs through April 27 at The Old Town Theatre.

Tricks: This world premiere, presented by Chronos Theatre Group, is about two gay men who must confront their families, each other and themselves. For adult audiences. Through April 27 at 10th Avenue Theatre in East Village.

Mandate Memories: This is a world premiere of a drama about an elderly Holocaust survivor who pays a visit to a British woman whose father was killed by Jewish terrorists. Through May 4 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach.

Time and the Conways: This philosophical drama follows a British family from hope in 1919 to desperation in 1937 and then returns to 1919 to show how things started to go wrong. Through May 4 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park.

To Kill a Mockingbird: The classic drama with the best character names in the history of film or theater: Atticus, Scout, Gem, Dill and Boo. Through May 4 at New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad.

Things My Mother Taught Me: A comedy about a young couple, who relocate from New York to Chicago and move in together for the first time, and their parents, who show up unexpectedly to help them get settled. Through May 11 at Broadway Theatre in Vista.

Water by the Spoonful: The life of an Iraq War veteran intersects with those of four strangers in an Internet chat room for recovering drug addicts. Through May 11 at The Old Globe Theatre.

Passion: Ion Theatre closes its eighth season with this Stephen Sondheim musical about a 19th-century soldier caught between his affair with a married woman and a mentally troubled woman’s love for him. Through May 17 at BLKBOX Theatre in Hillcrest.

Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure: In this adaptation by Steven Dietz, the famous detective is at the end of his career but is drawn into one last case. Through May 18 at Coronado Playhouse.

Crime Pays: A radio game show with dastardly overtones, served up with dinner, is presented by Mystery Cafe at Imperial House restaurant in Bankers Hill.