SMTD’s production of Water by the Spoonful does not deal with light subjects. The play follows a family coping with death, a chatroom for recovering drug addicts, and the way these two groups intersect. Another key point is how Elliot, the son of the deceased Ginny, copes with PTSD resulting from his time spent in Iraq. Though the play finds itself confronting all these difficult situations, it leaves audiences with hope and a heightened sense of one’s priorities.
This was my first time at the Arthur Miller Theater. I found its layout really interesting, especially in the context of Water by the Spoonful. The theater is square with the stage at the center. Only a few rows of seats radiate from each of the three exposed sides, both on the ground level and balcony. The performance feels so immediate and three-dimensional when viewed in this way; I could see the smallest changes in an actor’s face, feel the movement of a fight scene, and watch the water fall as it is poured on the stage by the spoonful. When a sizable portion of the dialogue takes place in a chatroom, four different locations need to be created. By angling certain rooms towards different sections of the audience, the staging created this dual sense of dislocation and togetherness in a really interesting and effective way. The section of the stage farther back by the wings was also used in conjunction with an elevated balcony and the central space to explore some of the collage-like overlapping sections of the work. As characters inhabit all three spaces with various lines and music weaving in and out of the scene, the different spatial contexts allowed a type of visual overlapping to coincide with the aural and theatrical pastiches going on.
The use of space was intriguing in this work, but what is space if not filled with characters and lines and interaction? The performances in Water by the Spoonful gave life to a plethora of diverse and complex characters. Notable performances include Alyxandra Ciale Charfauros and Vincent Ford as Orangutan and Chutes&Ladders, respectively, as the two bring a realness to their characters that becomes amplified in their back-and-forth conversations. Kyle Prue’s performance as Fountainhead, a man with an addiction who can’t quite face his reality, was also one that I found highly immersive.
Ultimately, I found Water by the Spoonful to be a great performance. The material was used in really thoughtful ways in terms of both direction and performance, and I look forward to trekking to North Campus again to see more work in the Arthur Miller theater.