Water by the Spoonful (The Old Globe)

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On the surface Water by the Spoonful deals with recovering crack addicts and broken relationships, but this Pulitzer Prize-winning drama offers so much more.

We’re first introduced to cousins Elliot (Rey Lucas) and Yazmine (Sarah Nina Hayon) discussing the health of their Aunt Ginny, who soon passes away. For Elliot, the loss of his aunt is especially difficult since she raised him from when he was five, and he considers her his own mother. Soon he is forced to reconnect with his birth mother, and their meeting brings up bad childhood memories and issues of abandonment. Elliot is also struggling with a leg injury from a tour in Iraq, an addiction to painkillers. and haunted visions of a slain Iraqi civilian. Luckily for Elliot, Yazmine, strong willed and well educated, fulfills a motherly role as she nurtures him and provides emotional support as Elliot struggles to adjust to civilian life.

Eventually, we learn that Odessa (Marilyn Torres) is Elliot’s biological mother, who has been estranged from her family since becoming a crack addict, and whose poor parenting skills led to the death of her daughter. Now sober, Odessa spends most of her days running an online chat room to support other addicts in their efforts to get and stay clean. Perhaps this fills the void of having failed as mother and provides her a purpose in life.

As the multi-colored neon tube lights that cross overhead and under the stage floor flicker on, it’s apparent that we are connected to the chat room and are able to meet Odessa’s clan. Each addict has his or her own story and path to recovery. Here we learn the challenges of admitting and overcoming an addiction. It’s a tough journey, but one filled with hope and a second chance at life, a rebirth if you will.

Sometimes small steps are needed to heal wounds, mend relationships, and make peace with the past. Some call it baby steps, others may call it taking it one day at a time. Playwright, Quiara Alegría Hudes calls it Water by the Spoonful.

Photo: Marilyn Torres as Odessa Ortiz aka Haikumom in the California Premiere of Quiara Alegría Hudes’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Water by the Spoonful, directed by Edward Torres.