May 2, 2018
by Alexa Chipman
Interacting online can be an odd combination of genuine encounters and superficial clamoring for the sake of sounding clever. Quiara Alegría Hudes has captured snarky banter and pleas for help found on an internet forum and chatroom for recovering addicts. Vincent Mothersbaugh’s simple set design creates multiple locations, from a mango-themed internet café in Japan to a typical corporate desk environment.
Most of the characters identify by their usernames, like “Chutes&Ladders” or “Fountainhead” with projected avatars hovering above with whimsical photos. The play is a unique, fascinating format, hearing written posts spoken aloud with the full force of emotion behind them. It is easy to hide behind a keyboard and anonymous name; stepping forward as someone who deserves respect and meaningful relationships takes courage.“Nobody can make you invisible but you,” Hudes writes.
The site’s moderator, Odessa, appears to be serene and self-assured in her role as mentor, until a series of events rips open old wounds, leading to a tragically beautiful conclusion, brilliantly portrayed by Athena Gundlach. Her son Elliot, who was raised apart due to her addiction, is a Marine Corps veteran still haunted by his experiences in Iraq, represented by Robert Bauer’s pitiable ghost, arms outstretched in supplication. Elliot (Bill Garcia) is adrift in civilian life, working in a sandwich shop with no long-term future, until he is forced to face the reality of his denial and regrets. Through the pain, Elliot finds a glimmer of hope, with the help of Yazmin (Serena Elize Flores), who refuses to give up on their dreams.
Quirky chatroom regular Chutes&Ladders (Nicholas James Augusta), who is complacent with his reclusive state, is encouraged to step outside his comfort zone by restless extrovert Orangutan (Hande Gokbas). Their quietly blossoming friendship is exquisitely directed by Steven David Martin. Arriving at the forum with an initially pompous introduction message, Fountainhead (Matt Farrell) gradually opens up to the community, allowing them to change his attitude and admit he needs the support of people around him, not generic tips on staying clean.
Hudes is brutally honest, while believing that redemption is possible, transforming mundane characters into symbols of optimism through their struggles.‘Water by the Spoonful’ at Raven Players is a poignant contemporary play well worth attending, with a capable ensemble.
Photos courtesy of Ray Mabry Photography.
Author Website - http://imaginationlane.net
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