“Water by the Spoonful” By theatre twenty-two

In all lives come periods of crisis. The crises for the characters in “Water by the Spoonful” are now and have been for some time. The recovering crack addicts and the soldier returned from Iraq find equilibrium on a narrow ledge. And, as in real life, it’s friends or family who can steady them.

Theatre twenty-two’s deeply moving production of Quiara Algeria Hudes’ 2012 Pulitzer Prize winning play scores a hit on many levels. Its staging is creative. The actors are in top form, and obviously director Julie Beckman knew just what she was doing.

This is a story of interconnections. Many of the characters are members of the same Puerto Rican family, tied together by bonds of love and the strains of anger. Four characters, including one of the family members, are participants in an on-line support group for crack heads trying to stay clean. What they make very clear is that even after years away from it, crack still exerts a pull that is nearly irresistible.

Monica Tippett’s stage is cleverly built, almost like a construction site with different levels and different zones. On it actors can be together or thousands of miles apart. The members of the support group are located all over the country, have different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, are of different ages. Though the audience can see them and watch them interact, the characters know nothing about one another, only that they are recovering addicts in a particular chat room, and they desperately need the courage they provide each other.

The Puerto Rican family members know lots about each other. They too need comfort. The relatives who share a history could provide that, but it doesn’t always work out that way. Yazmin as played by Yesina Iglesias combines beauty of body and spirit as she tries to help her cousin Elliot, the returned Iraq vet. Jany Bacallao plays Elliot with a thin layer of sweetness not quite able to hold back his repressed anger and frightful memories.

Haikumom.com, known by her family as Odessa, a major player in both the support group and the Puerto Rican family, is stunning in her ability to bring righteous anger, compassion, strength of character, and fragility to her role.

This is powerful theatre reminding us of the potent impact of family forgiveness, the importance of community support, and the possibility of redemption.

Through Nov. 14 at West of Lenin, 203 N. 36th St., Seattle, (206 257-2203 or www.theatre22.org).

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