Review: Water by the Spoonful at Teatro Espejo

Showtimes: Fri 8pm, Sun 7pm; Through 11/17; $18-$24; California Stage, 2509 R St.;
Rated 4.0

The title of this excellent play—the 2012 Pulitzer Prize winner for drama—refers to a treatment for babies suffering from stomach flu. Small sips of fluid over an extended period made hydration possible. It’s a task that Odessa Ortiz couldn’t manage because of her crack addiction. Her baby died.

Water by the Spoonful is the second part of playwright Quiara Alegria Hudes’ “The Elliot Trilogy.” Part One dealt with Elliot’s experience in Iraq, which has left him with physical and emotional injuries. Elliot has returned to his Puerto Rican neighborhood in Philadelphia. Still haunted by Iraq, he tries to step back into a fractious family.

Now known by her chat room handle “Haikumom,” Odessa (Katherine Bahena-Benitez) hangs onto sobriety by moderating an addiction chat room with participants around the world.

The play alternates between family dramas and discussions between Haikumom and a trio of regulars (a “family,” too) on the addiction network: Orangutan (Jordan Lee Powell), Chutes&Ladders (Marques Buford) and Fountainhead (Cole Winslow).

The playwright doles out insight and interactions in small drops, drops that eventually become a torrent of grief and transformations.

The acting by this ensemble, plus Yazmin Ortiz (Jezabel Olivares) as Elliot’s close cousin, is uniformly strong. Some scenes between Yazmin and Elliot are easy exchanges, sometimes spoken too comfortably as if it’s casual conversation.