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Time Out Theater Review: "Water By The Spoonful"

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The 2012 Pulitzer Prize winning play, "Water by the Spoonful," recently made its New York debut courtesy of off-broadway's Second Stage Theatre. Time Out New York's David Cote filed the following review.

Last year’s Pulitzer Prize winner for drama, Quiara Alegría Hudes’ "Water by the Spoonful," surprised everyone.

Hudes was not unknown -- she wrote the book for "In the Heights," but Water had not been seen in New York.

Now getting a chance to see the fuss is all about, I’m glad to say the Pulitzer committee chose wisely. Funny and sad, the play explores various communities fracturing and forming anew.

"Water by the Spoonful" tracks lost souls, all bearing scars external and invisible. The most obvious of the walking wounded is Elliot Ortiz, played by Armando Riesco, a 24-year-old Iraq War veteran with a leg torn up from barbed wire.

Elliot’s life after discharge is in limbo. He’s in a dead-end fast food job, fending off the demons of post-traumatic stress. His cousin Yaz, the radiant, wistful Zabryna Guevara, is also troubled, but more by her ambivalence toward her Hispanic roots in North Philadelphia.

Just when you’ve pegged Water as a domestic drama, Hudes broadens her canvas into cyberspace. We see dialogues on an Internet message board for recovering substance abusers, moderated by Odessa, played by Liza Colón-Zayas, who turns out to be Elliot’s estranged biological mother.

Hudes doesn’t satirize or idealize the slogans of 12-step programs but instead shows how staying clean is constant work, and how those who reject drugs sometimes sacrifice human connection, too.

Hudes weaves her plot lines with elegance and passion, as we follow characters in their bittersweet search for belonging and connection.

Director Davis McCallum steers a superb, diverse ensemble through the comedy and pathos of this material. You don’t sip this work by the spoonful, you want to gulp gallons.

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