Monday, August 25, 2014

"Water By The Spoonful" ☼ ☼ ☼

It is easy to identify with the characters in Quiara Alegria Hudes's "Water by the Spoonful." Each one has been physically or emotionally injured. Several are addicts attempting with great difficulty to remain clean; all are barely keeping their heads above water.

Two parallel stories intersect. In one, ex-Marine Elliot (Miles Gaston Villanueva) is trying to readjust to life back in Philadelphia with the help of his cousin Yazmin (Sabina Zuniga Varela). In the other, a chat-room is hosted by Odessa (Zilah Mendoza), Elliot's birth mother, in an attempt to give crack addicts a place to come and talk, instead of going out and getting high.

Of the two stories, this latter one is fascinating, especially with the help of Erik Flatmo and Steven B. Mannschardt's brilliant set and lights. We find ourselves involved in each of the on-line character's lives. Anna Ishida is terrific as the wisecracking Orangutan, as are Anthony J. Haney as Chutes&Ladders and Patrick Kelly Jones as Fountainhead, two addicts unable to admit how close they are to the edge.

For us real-life story resonates less than the virtual one. Varela is excellent as the girl who got out of the family orbit but is now anxious to become the new head of the family. Villanueva, while giving a lot of energy to his role as the injured Iraqi war veteran, sadly does not exhibit a lot of heart. We see him acting, but he doesn't seem to feel much. In addition, there appears to be a romantic spark between the cousins which makes little sense. Part of the problem may be that the Mountain View Center's sound system was unable to pick up all the lightning fast dialogue; this may be the reason Act Two feels long.

RATINGS: ☼ ☼ ☼
 The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "Water by the Spoonful" three stars. It is a fascinating concept. When the curtain comes down on Act One the audience is buzzing about what they have just seen and what might come next. We wish we could leave the theater feeling that same excitement.

"Water by the Spoonful"
Mountain View Center for Performing Arts
500 Castro Street, Mountain View
Through August 22, 2014

Photo Credits: Kevin Berne

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