Globe’s ‘Water by the Spoonful’ explores human need to connect

By Diana Saenger

The California premiere of “Water by the Spoonful,” Quiara Alegría Hudes’ winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, is at The Old Globe’s Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre through May 11. Directing the play is Edward Torres, who recently directed the world premiere of Hudes’ “The Happiest Song Plays Last.”

“Water by the Spoonful,” is the second play in Hudes’ three stand-alone plays, written over an eight-year period about a man named Elliot. Each uses different music types — Bach, Coltrane and Puerto Rican folk music — to trace the coming of age of this bright, but haunted, young Puerto Rican man. Her final play, “The Happiest Song Plays Last,” opened Off Broadway in February 2014.

“I absolutely love Hudes’ writing,” Torres said. “I think ‘Water by the Spoonful’ is a wonderful play about recovery, redemption and the human connection.”

Hudes’ has produced a vast catalog of noted work. She wrote the book for the Broadway musical “In the Heights,” which received the 2008 Tony Award for Best Musical, a Tony nomination for Best Book of a Musical, was a 2009 Pulitzer Prize finalist and garnered Hudes other awards. Hudes has a B.A. in Music from Yale University and an M.F.A. in playwriting from Brown University.

“Water by the Spoonful” is an open page to current events. Soldier Elliot Ortiz is home from a tour in Iraq. Now he must reconnect with his family and begin a new life. Looking for support anywhere he can find it, Ortiz discovers an Internet chat room. There he finds four others who also need support to face their own demons. It’s not long before Elliot’s real world intersects with his virtual world in unforeseen ways.

As a director, actor and producer, Torres is certainly qualified to direct this work. He is co-founder and was artistic director of Teatro Vista Theatre in Chicago. He directed the world premiere of Kristoffer Diaz’s “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity,” which was a Pulitzer Prize finalist.

Torres was also the recipient of a 2010 3Arts Artist Award and was featured as guest director at the 2011 Eugene O’Neill Theater Center National Playwrights Conference, where he serves on their artistic council.

He had an acting role in Hudes’ “Elliot, A Soldier’s Fugue,” a role that Torres relates to this play.

“I played Elliott’s father in that play,” Torres said. “Since it was also about war and returning home, the backstory of the effects to those who have been to war lead into this play. Elliott (Rey Lucas) in this play is a very charming individual who is connected to his family, especially his sister Yazmin (Sarah Nina Hayon), and his mother Odessa (Marilyn Torres).

Torres said the cast (with very impressive resumes) is great. Auditions were held in Los Angles, New York and Chicago.

“It was important to cast close to each character and the story line,” Torres said. “We’re about storytelling and creatively conveying it to the audience, making sure the words of the play are distinct and clear. I hope those who see ‘Water by the Spoonful’ get a clear understanding of what recovery and addiction is about, and that it’s always good to expand one’s horizons culturally.”

If you go:

“Water by the Spoonful” runs through May 11 at The Old globe Theatre’s Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, 1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park. Tickets from $29 at (619) 234-5623.