Let’s Review! Tragedies of life flow from ‘Water by the Spoonful’ at The Old Globe

By Diana Saenger

Let’s Review

The bright, multi-colored floor on the set of Quiara Alegría Hudes’ “Water by the Spoonful,” draws awes from many Globe patrons as they take their seats for the California premiere of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama. The colors reflect the play’s characters who are as different and electrifying as those bright hues on the floor.

Director Edward Torres does a great job with a fine cast in balancing the characters’ up and down personalities. By the second and third acts, the audience is intrigued to know how everything will end.

Puerto Rican Odessa Ortiz (Marilyn Torres) is a recovering drug addict running a chat room under the name “Haikumom.” She moderates the debates among the other three addicts to help keep them clean and obscenity-free, and is also concerned about Elliot Ortiz (Rey Lucas), a soldier just home from service in Iraq.

Elliot is having problems readjusting to his life and gets advice from his Aunt Yazmin (Sarah Nina Hayon), a professor he sometimes listens to and other times shuts out. He’s tried several jobs, but has a physical injury from his military service. However, his biggest obstacle seems to be a touch of PTSD, which has him seeing a ghost (M. Keala Milles, Jr.) occasionally walk through the room muttering something in Arabic.

Three characters trying to overcome addictions appear off and on at the bottom of the stairways surrounding the stage, which is slightly confusing when you realize they’re supposed to be on their computers at home logging into Haikumom’s chat room. Madeleine (Ruibo Qian), aka Orangutan, is a vibrant Japanese-American as flashy as her dark-red hair. At times she debates with the others in an effort to help them become drug free.

Even though she’s never seen him, Orangutan has a particular interest in Clayton (Keith Randolph Smith), aka Chutes & Ladders, an African-American who works for the IRS. At one point, she invites him to go to Japan with her.

When new chatter, John, (Robert Eli), aka Fountainhead, logs on he’s a little too arrogant and is scolded by the others. He’s doing heavy drugs and trying to keep it a secret from his wife and daughter, while maintaining a “normal” life. Haikumom cautions Orangutan and Chutes & Ladders to ease off and give Fountainhead a break.

The characters attribute their addictions to the ongoing trials in their lives — a dying mother, abandonment by parents, the rough road to recovery. Despite their ethnic differences and the fact that they live in different areas of the country, the chatters begin to form a security blanket among themselves congratulating each other for good steps and scolding for the bad.

“Water by the Spoonful,” is recommended for mature audiences.

If you go

: The play 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.