A Brief Review of ‘Water by the Spoonful’

‘Water by the Spoonful’, IndyFringe, Wisdom Tooth Theatre Project, October 2015

Let’s Raise an Empty Glass

            Anyone who says, “our past defines us,” would find himself/herself in an argument with the writer of the heart-wrenching narrative of Water by the Spoonful. Indy Fringe and director Ronn Johnston bring us a play about hope, family, and community that will bring tears as easily as it brings biting wit and hilarity.

            The compact, black box set was refreshingly simple, only decorated with a family tree styled backdrop and black boxes. Before the show started, Johnston came out to speak with the audience of his “labor of love.” It’s rare to see a pre-show introduction done with such fervor and pride, but Johnston did not disappoint. He told the audience that we were sitting in the luckiest building in Indianapolis: survivor of two fires, countless tornadoes, and an earthquake. Johnston left us with a brave request before he handed the stage to the actors, “What do you say we all fall in love together, tonight?”

            Water by the Spoonful follows the ups, but mostly downs, of the Ortiz family comprised of Elliot (Mauricio Miranda), Yazmin (Elysia Rohn), and Odessa (Dena Toler). The outstanding performances by these actors lifted the show from the old abandon church and into my heart. Miranda’s take on Elliot, the brooding ex-war veteran was nothing short of captivating. As he struggled through the death of his aunt and caretaker, money issues, and an identity crisis, we drank in his sorrow by the bowl. Rohn played the perfect companion for a young man lost in himself, her comforting compassion unparalleled. While Toler shined on stage when playing opposite her family members, she was caught between mediocrity and a hard place when sharing the stage with @Hakiumom’s forum buddies.

            Part of this play took place in a virtual world in which the stage became a live representation of an addiction chat room spanning the United States and Japan. The band of misfits starring Scott Russell, Butch Copeland, and Tracy Herring fell short in comparison to the Ortiz family, but their presence was not unnecessary. This second story line enforced a sense of community that was present from the moment I entered Indy Fringe that evening.

            Like the church that I sat in, the Ortiz family was a group of survivors. Despite frequently being funeral guests, Elliot and Yazmin Ortiz found a way to stay alive. Water by the Spoonful challenges the audience to see the ugliness of reality and push on. This play is a triumph of spirit and a love letter to a community that, like the Indianapolis community, will always be there for you.

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