‘Water by the Spoonful’ delivers a strong dose of medicine for the lonely soul

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“Water by the Spoonful” is a moving tale of a family’s struggle with the fallout of addiction.

Though the characters tell stories you’ve heard many times before (an Iraqi War vet, a no-show mother, that golden cousin who made good), playwright Quiara Alegria Hudes offers fresh perspectives on an overarching social issue that affects those far beyond the confines of the recovering community.

Four of the crack addicts at the center of the story meet in an online chat forum. (If you’re wondering why they don’t go to 12-step meetings in their respective cities, more will be revealed.) Their clunky dialogue, seemingly banal banter and misplaced aggressions portray the loneliness and desperate need for relief that is distinctive to an addict with haunting authenticity.

Director Scott Edmiston’s stirring production boasts an ensemble of star talent that draws you into their chaos with a staid sense of vulnerability that is deeply ingrained as a result of years of heartbreak and disappointment. Collectively, their exploration of isolation as a profoundly problematic human condition is masterful.

Johnny Lee Davenport finely embodies the frustration of Chutes & Ladders, a man whose family has disowned him. Therese Nguyen is equally touching as Orangutan, a disjointed Japanese addict raised by adopted parents in Maine. Gabriel Kuttner is convincingly arrogant, if only on the surface, as Fountainhead, the deceitful newbie-in-denial of the group.

Though the script is not without hiccups (a couple of superfluous storylines and just a bit too much stating of the obvious), Edmiston smoothes any rough edges  by challenging the audience to identify with his broken characters, if you dare.

“Water by the Spoonful” offers much to those who are willing to entertain the possibility that they, too, might be yearning for more than just the superficial connections of an unhappily harried society.

If you go

‘Water by the Spoonful’
Through November 16
Lyric Stage
140 Clarendon St., Boston
$25 – $61
617-585-5678
lyricstage.com


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