BWW Reviews: WATER BY THE SPOONFUL Now Playing at the Unicorn Theatre
Water by the Spoonful a play by Quiara Alegria Hudes currently runs on the Jerome Stage at the Unicorn Theatre in Kansas City, Mo. The 2012 Pulitzer Prize winner for Drama is the story of an Iraqi war veteran who returns home to discover his mother is running a chat room for recovering addicts. Mark Robbins directs a dynamic cast in this Unicorn production. Robbins has previously directed Good People and God of Carnage co-productions with Kansas City Actors Theatre.
The set is moderate at best, but functional in the small intimate setting of the Jerome Stage. Robbins works with a marvelous cast that gets to spread their dramatic wings and fly. Though the acting is superb and powerful, the play itself is one of the most depressing pieces I have seen in the Kansas City theaters. There are few moments of humor to break a tension-filled performance.
Keenan Ramos received his first acting job from Cynthia Levin the Producing Artistic Director at the Unicorn and returns as Elliot Ortiz, the soldier who has returned home. It is after his aunt who raised him dies that he discovers the chat room and confronts his mother about her past addiction. Ramos turns in a powerful performance as he rants at his mother for not helping with his aunt's funeral.
Dawnnie Mercado plays Odessa and Haikumom, marking her debut at the Unicorn Theatre. Her performance is very good, but the scene of her in the bathtub, not speaking a word gives credit to her ability as she makes the audience believe her plight.
Chutes & Ladders is the name used by a former addict on the website run by Haikumom. Walter Coppage plays the character who befriends Orangutan (another former addict) and forces Fountainhead to admit to his addiction. Coppage flies into a rage at Fountainhead with as strong a dramatic performance as I have seen at the Unicorn. At first, the audience feels Fountainheads pain as he faces the carnage of Coppage, but quickly they learn that tough love works.
Alisha Espinosa plays Elliot's cousin, Yazmin Ortiz, the successful levelheaded member of the family. She gives a vigorous performance as she tries to help Elliot and understand his mother and his own addiction. Espinosa last was seen at The Coterie in Afflicted: Daughters of Salem as Tituba.
Erika Crane Ricketts, Darren Kennedy, and Bryan Moses give good performances in supporting roles. Ricketts plays the recovering addict with the screen name of Orangutan. This role marks her debut at the Unicorn and she has previously appeared at the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre and the Bell Road Barn Players among others. Kennedy plays Fountainhead the newcomer to the chat room. He has appeared in television shows CSI, Without a Trace, Just Shoot Me, and General Hospital among others. Moses portrays Professor Amand and a reoccurring ghost to Elliot. He makes his debut at the Unicorn Theatre and is the Associate Artistic Director at the Living Room Theatre.
Water by the Spoonful runs through May 18 on the Jerome Stage at the Unicorn Theatre. Purchase tickets at the Unicorn Theatre website or call 816-531-7529 ext. 10. The Unicorn offers Pay What You Can on Tuesday and Wednesday performances, which must be purchased the day of the performance. Photo by Cynthia Levin and courtesy of the Unicorn Theatre.