Is it possible to fall in love with all the characters in a play, even those who see themselves as less-than-worthy members of the human race? And then, after more than a year, fall in love with them all over again?
That's what happened to me with "Water By The Spoonful," Quiara Alegría Hudes' play full of grace, humor and humanity that
The Pulitizer Prize-winning play opened off-Broadway at the 2econd Stage Theater Tuesday, directed again by Davis McCallum.
As the play begins, Elliot Ortiz, a former Marine who was wounded during his tour in Iraq, and his cousin Yazmin Ortiz, an adjunct professor of music who is finalizing a divorce, sit on a bench in Philadelphia and talk about their past and present lives.
It was like revisiting family.
In the next scene, when the quartet of on-line Narcotics Anonymous members appear on stage and begin their cyber banter (on line only — the audience sees them, but they can't see each other), it also felt like seeing old friends, in this case a group of resilient, struggling souls just trying to live one day at a time, sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing. They are known by their web names: Odessa, the leader of the website; Chutes and Ladders, a middle-age government worker; Fountainhead, a Philadelphia patrician down on his luck; Orangutan, a young Japanese-American woman.
It made me think back to the original Hartford run, which was clobbered with the
Sure, Hudes was a
Because of the lingering and disruptive effects of the storm, not many people saw the world premiere in Hartford. The show closed in November, 2011, not coming close to meeting its revenue projections.
Months passed and then in April, on a train to New York, an alert on my
But "Spoonful" took everyone — myself included — by surprise. The general opinion is that plays that are seen and supported by critics and audiences in New York are those favored for the Pulitzer. By last spring, "Other Desert Cities" and "Sons of the Prophets," had well-received New York productions.
So what was this "Water By The Spoonful," people wondered? A script wasn't even published until months after it won the prize. Some in theater chat rooms were less than kind to this "other" play few had heard of and even less had seen. It was reported that the Pulitzer judging was based on the Hudes' text, not the production, so what would people think once they saw the work on stage?
"New Yorkers like making the nation's tastes, not vice versa, and they're not famous for approving of plays coronated elsewhere," theater writer Michael Feingold wrote this week in the Village Voice.
But reaction to "Spoonful"'s New York premiere last week was generally positive, though there were several critics who shrugged and a few who sniped.
Charles Isherwood of the
The Daily News was less enchanted, giving it three out of five stars; The New York Post rated it 2 1/2 stars out of 4. (The post quipped, "The first thing that comes to mind is: This fine but innocuous show won last year's Pulitzer Prize?")
"I feel very relieved," said Hudes, looking radiant at the opening night party on 42nd Street Tuesday. (She is eight months pregnant and was accompanied by her husband, Ray Beauchamp.)
"It's been hard," she said. "There have been expectations in New York and I've had a lot of anxiety, Sometimes the arts can feel like a blood sport a little."
Hudes said there were minor changes in the script from Hartford to New York, "but God is in the details. We've worked very hard pushing everyone so bless their souls, they worked so tirelessly and I'm very happy tonight."
The new production has some new actors. Bill Heck plays Fountainhead. (He played Horace in Hartford Stage's epic "The Orphan's Home Cycle.")
Also at the party were two
"We're just delighted to be part of this partnership and just to know that it started in Hartford," said Green.
This season's Aetna Voices playwright is Daniel Beaty. The world premiere of his play with music, "Breath & Imagination" opens Wednesday at Hartford Stage.