BWW Review: The Horrors of Addiction Showcased in WATER BY THE SPOONFUL at Ensemble

BWW Review: The Horrors of Addiction Showcased in WATER BY THE SPOONFUL at Ensemble

Chemical addiction is the "compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance (such as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol)." In those with addiction, the substance controls the person, rather than the person being able to control their desire to stop usage or change their addictive behavior.

"Water by the Spoonful," now in production at Ensemble Theatre, is the second installment in Quiara Alegria Hudes "The Elliot Trilogy," three tales centering on Marine vet Elliot Ortiz.

The Pulitzer Prize winning play tells astory of people connected by familial bonds, an online community, trauma and recovery.

Addiction "recovery" is a complicated and debilitating process which often leads to short term successes and numerous failures.

Traditionally, it starts with the "victim" admitting they are an addict, not only to themselves, but to those who serve as their recovery team and potential support individuals. Without this first step, the limited path to recovery is nearly impossible.

Recovery assistance takes various courses including institutional programs, drug or alcohol anonymous groups, chemical replacement (e.g., Methadone usage), a rational recovery approach, or going cold turkey, when the individual attempts to fight the addiction on their own.

Though the fulcrum of "Water by the Spoonful" is Elliot, the catalyst of the story is addiction, especially the drug addiction of his birth-mother, Odessa, the chat room monitor for an on-line group of addicts.

Eliot, who served in Iraq, is haunted by memories, including a recurring dream about an Arabic message which translates as the phrase, "Can I please have my passport back?"

The events of the real world transpire, superimposed on those of the online chat room, where people recovering from drug addiction come together for comfort and support.

This is a tale not only of addiction, but of family.

In the cyber-world, "Orangutan," "Chutes & Ladders," and "Fountainhead," the usernames of the addicts, have formed a type of family. They interact, share information, and act as a support group for the members.

In the real world there is the natural family of Elliot, his cousin Yaz, their beloved aunt Mami Ginny (Odessa's estranged sister) and Odessa. They are dealing with the tragic death many years ago of Elliot's sister, the demise of Mami Ginny, Elliot's battle with PTSD, as well as Odessa's on-going battle with drugs.

Elliot and Yaz confronting the details of Mami Ginny's funeral, Odessa overdosing, the sprinkling of Mami Ginny's ashes in Puerto Rico, Chutes & Ladders and Orangutan developing a special bond, Fountainhead becoming Odessa's caretaker, Yaz buying Mami Ginny's house in North Philadelphia, and Elliot buying a one-way ticket to Los Angeles to try and make a living as an actor, completes the tale.

The Ensemble production, under the direction of Celeste Cosentino, is a thought-provoking experience. While sometimes difficult to hear the dialogue because of the long, narrow stage-seating arrangement, the story flows easily.

Though sometimes lacking in developing fully realistic characters, the cast (Inés Joris-Odessa, Santino Montanez-Elliot, Tania Benites --Yazmin, Greg White-Chutes & Ladders, Kat Shy--Orangutan, Jason Markouc-FountainHead, Meshal Al Sunaid-Professor Aman/Ghost/Policeman) is generally effective.

Capsule judgment: Pulitzer Prize winning "Water by the Spoonful" is a thought-provoking play which gives a clear picture of the horrors of addiction, the difficulty of overcoming its grip, and what it is to live with a force controlling you, instead of you controlling it.

"Water by the Spoonful" runs through May 17, 2019 on Fridays and Saturdays @ 8 pm and Sundays @ 2. Ensemble is housed in the former Coventry School, 2843 Washington Blvd, Cleveland Heights. For tickets call 216-321-2930 or go online to

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From This Author Roy Berko

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