Friday, December 21, 2012

Water by the Spoonful ***

(Please click on the title to see the complete review.)
Being awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama raised high expectations for Quiara Alegria Hudes' drama now in previews at Second Stage. By and large, these expectations were met. Even though the play did not fully win me over, I can easily understand why it was selected for the Pulitzer. Its ambition and complexity are admirable. In the first act, there are alternating scenes with two different sets of characters. A pair of Puerto Rican-American cousins, Elliot (Armando Riesco), an ex-Marine who was injured in Iraq, and Yaz (Zabryna Guevara), who teaches music at Swarthmore, are dealing with the illness of a relative. When the scene shifts, we meet Chutes and Ladders (Frankie Faison), Orangutan (Sue Jean Kim) and Fountainhead (Bill Heck) who, we gradually realize, are in a chat room for crack addicts moderated by Haikumom a/k/a Odessa (Liza Colon-Zayas). Ryan Shams also appears in three small roles. The connection between the two groups is not revealed until just before intermission. During the second act, their relationships develop and shift as they confront or avoid their personal demons. Some of these relationships are less than convincing.  Davis McCallum's assured direction handles the rapid changes of scene and characters smoothly. Neil Patel's scenic design is dominated by an abstract backdrop suggesting an aerial view of a rock garden. (Is this a trend? The set for "The Great God Pan" was also a scene from nature.) This play is the second in a trilogy in which Elliot plays a central role. I am sorry not to have seen the first one, but I look forward to catching the final one before too long. Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes including intermission.

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