By Charles Norton, Staff Writer
Playwright Quiara Algeria Hudes’, Water by the Spoonful, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2012, played onstage at Jenkins Hall Feb. 26 through March 1.
The drama, set in Philadelphia’s, El Barrio, explores Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), drug addiction, and family dynamics by using the character’s polarization of their lives.
Water by the Spoonful is told by showing two different physical settings that unfold simultaneously onstage.
One shows how Elliot copes with the world, and the other, how Odessa copes with her addiction.
Odessa, a crack addict who has been clean for seven years leads a website that supports other crack addicts, much like Alcoholics Anonymous.
The site is known as Haikumom, she lovingly supports anonymous addicts with user names such as Orangutan, Chutes & Ladders, and new group member, Fountainhead. This mothering persona of Odessa is polarized with her real life self of a disconnected biological mother to Elliot. Odessa is unable to make peace with the past and can’t move forward into the future.
All the characters in the virtual world have exchanged an addiction to crack for an addiction to the anonymous love and acceptance that they feel from the website.
This harmony serves as a safe place from the chaos of the real world. Fountainhead intrudes on this world by mocking their addiction and claiming to be a part-time addict that can quit whenever he wants to.
Fountainhead is discarding everything; a wife, family, and wealth–the things in life that all the other members crave, just to support his drug addiction.
In spite of the inability to make amends with Elliot, Odessa is forced to sell her old, outdated computer in order to buy flowers for her sister.
With no access to her web site, Odessa relapses and overdoses on crack, leaving her near-death and in a semi-comatose state. By the end of the play Elliot realizes, with the help of his cousin, Yaz, (played by Amira Williams), that he must forgive Odessa for the past, or he too will be unable to forgive himself.
Yaz has served as a mediator between the volatile mother and son. She is a positive influence on Elliot. “No matter the situation that life has thrown at you, or the horrible decisions that you make,” Yaz said, “There is still room for recovery and redemption.”
Ultimately, love and forgiveness are the most cherished themes of the play. Student Diana Richardson played a drug addict, Orangutan. “I want the audience to remember the importance of love and communication between not only the treasured people in our lives, but also the people we pass on the streets,” Richardson said. “You never know what effect one life has on another.”
In order to add validity to the production, senior theater major, Gabrielle Hartman, served as Dramaturg in the play. “I was there to keep everything accurate to the setting and time period,” Hartman said. Not only did she research and share historical information about the play to the cast, she prepared an informative lobby display offering information about addiction and PTSD to audience.
The struggle of military servicemen to reorient themselves into society is often psychologically difficult.
Success and failure, recovery and redemption are dependent on support from loved ones. “It’s is most important for people to love their family and friends, bury grudges, and treat the people around you with kindness,” cast member, Kenneth Jones said.
Water by the Spoonful proves that second chances are possible.