Jewel Box Theatre Presents “Water by the Spoonful” with Sensitivity and Hope
“Water by the Spoonful” is the 2012 Pulitzer Prize winning play by Quiara Alegria Hudes being presented at Jewel Box Theatre under the direction of Isaiah J. Williams. The show moves fluidly from chat room scenes to real world meetings. In many scenes the characters who are all members of a support group for crack cocaine addiction are shown in solitude as they type away in their chat room. These characters share a common habit among many–they verbalize what they type, Many of them happen to also be family members and they often meet in person.
The play has seven cast members, five of whom we know by their internet identities. They are Odessa Ortiz, known as Haikumom played by Allyson Rose. She is the birth mother of Elliot Ortiz, played by Oscar Jaimez and aunt of Yazmin Ortiz portrayed by Kate Adams. Yazmin is finalizing a divorce, but is still able to provide support to her young cousin as he grapples with his childhood neglect. Elliot’s birth mother, Odessa, known as Haikumom, founded the support group and is very active in her online persona but she cannot cope with the real world. These three family members are part of the community of Puerto Rican immigrants in Philadelphia. Normally a community with strong family ties, it is apparent they are all isolated from family because of their addictions.
The character known by all as Chutes&Ladders is played by Professa Tesdale. A middle-aged accountant and IRS agent, Chutes&Ladders has developed a close relationship with Orangutan, but his family have cut him out of their lives. Elena Avery Gage plays Orangutan, a Japanese American living in Japan where she teaches English. She is isolated by default and choice. Looking for a more human connection she convinces the reluctant Chutes&Ladders to join her in Japan. The demons he faces make such a journey almost impossible but she is insistent. The two of them are able to connect emotionally leading to a positive relationship.
Ed Spinelli plays Foutainhead, a typical upwardly mobile who has managed to keep his addiction to crack secret from his family. He is ready to quit and would like to rehabilitate, but that would reveal his addiction to his wife and he is unable to confess to her and himself. He ultimately conquers his ego and connects with Haikumom taking care of her in her dangerous relapse. While they clearly have excellent chemistry, they are also adept at indicating and overcoming the awkwardness that comes from strangers who know all the secrets often hidden from family and friends. Sherif Lotfy has multiple roles—Professor Aman/Ghost/Japanese Police Officer. Lotfy effortlessly differentiates each character.
The solid direction from Williams creates a comfortable transition with the actors moving between real world interactions and chat room interactions as each character struggles with their crack addiction along with the trials of coping with the everyday complications of life. The set design by Shawn Hancock emphasizes the uncomfortable yet accurate isolation of each character. Alexius Naté is Stage Manager with Emily Day assisting and Miguel Reiner is sound designer. Williams handles the lighting design along with directing and Arianna Tull is costumer while Brittany Atkins is properties designer.
Sometimes an unfortunate technical glitch is unavoidable and when that happens actors may have trouble coping. The mark of a true thespian is the ability to overcome those hazards and carry on unaffected. This cast has demonstrated their ability to overcome such an event with grace and fortitude.
“Water by the Spoonful” runs May 11 to May 28, 2023 at the Jewel Box Theatre an outreach ministry of Disciples First Christian Church at 321 NW 36th St. in Oklahoma City. For tickets and information visit www.JewelBoxOKC.com or call 405-521-1786. “Water by the Spoonful” is an important show, performed with elegance.