WATER BY THE
SPOONFUL, the second play in a trilogy, (@ Lyric Stage through Nov. 16th)
tells the story of a wounded war vet, his mother and the people they reach out
to (and shut out) while they all struggle with addiction and recovery. Lyric is
also presenting a reading of ELLIOT, A SOLDIER’S FUGUE (the first play in the
trilogy) on Nov. 12th and it’s free!
A SOLDIER’S PLAY
(@ Roxbury Repertory Theater through Nov. 2nd) is an eloquent
whodunit of the first order which takes place in a segregated army unit in the
South during WWII. A sergeant has been shot and lynched and there’s talk about
involvement of the KKK.
A SOLDIER’S PLAY, although it was written some 30 years ago, seems just as
relevant today for its themes of discrimination and corruption in the military.
Fuller sets the play before true integration in the armed services so you have
African-American troops under white leadership when the story begins. As we
know, racism is still pervasive today …and now you can add sexism to the –isms
which haunt the military. What makes Fuller’s play unique is how racism is
turned inward to feed on the soul.
Marshall Hughes gets rewarding resonance from casting a female in one of the soldier’s
roles. She plays it as written (after all, women in the army today are just
“soldiers”) and you immediately go along, the ensemble is so strong and the
story so compelling. Television and stage veteran Daver Morrison leads the cast
as the army lawyer assigned to investigate the murder. Morrison gives a
powerful performance as the cool captain who never loses his head, even when
white superior officers try to have him dismissed from the case for being
If you’ve seen
the play before, you haven’t seen it like this. Hughes employs ingenious shadow
play (on stage and on the side walls of the theater) to ratchet up the suspense
and amplify the brutality in the piece, making it much more visceral.
See it for a
fresh look at an important play and see it for the crackerjack performances:
From Damon Singletary’s hateful, yet pitiful sergeant to David J. Curtis’
gentle, tragic blues strummer. From Geraldo Portillo’s seething dissenter to
Bruce Drexel Smith’s toadying right hand man. From Ezra Stevens’ defensive
corporal to Emerald Johnson’s earnest private. Everyone in the company contributes
to this remarkable production.
Hudes’ WATER BY THE SPOONFUL has no plot to speak of, just a theme running
through the juxtaposed snatches of story, where everyone who desperately needs
something (although they might not know what it is) gets it. Hudes sees the
details of life and death from a different, often amusing angle: Like the
practice of smothering a funeral in flowers which will only die. “Death with
your death,” a character muses…or her description of rock bottom as a “ rental
interweaving action, and the fact that a good number of the scenes take place
on an internet chat site (with stationary actors), make for rough going,
despite the talented actors in director’s Scott Edmiston’s thoughtful
production. Computer screens, as a rule, detract from the momentum of a play,
although SOME MEN (at SpeakEasy a few years back) managed to make them
hilarious. Act II moves much more smoothly because Hudes ditches the device for
the most part and lets the characters connect.
Rodriguez as the vet tormented by physical and emotional pain, excels in a
touching, chilling speech in which he explains the title of the play. Sasha
Castroverde as his cousin, provides the family glue, since the vet is estranged
from his birth mother, an addict who now counsels other crack addicts on line.
Mariela Lopez-Ponce as mother has a beautiful, frightening scene, reliving the
Davenport even makes an IRS agent with no outside life charming. Theresa Nguyen
as the addict who wants to find her roots has a lovely, redemptive relationship
and Gabriel Kuttner adds humor as the crack addict who won’t admit the scope of
his dependency. He, too, will find a way out. Zaven Ovian as several characters
provides the ghostly nightmare locked in the soldier’s conscience.