Review: ‘Touch the Water’ at Cornerstone Theater


This article was originally on a blog post platform and may be missing photos, graphics or links. See About archive blog posts.

Some call the Los Angeles River the “secret river,” a rare section in the heart of the inner city that the Army Corps of Engineers couldn’t tame. It’s directly across from this unlikely spot that “Touch the Water,” Julie Hebért’s play, is having its world premiere.

A mix of contemporary characters, live music and Native American myth, “Water” is the fourth offering in Cornerstone Theater’s Justice Cycle, a series examining the effects, both positive and adverse, of specific laws on communities.


The busy but serviceable storyline revolves primarily around Luis (Cornerstone regular Shishir Kurup), a recently paroled alcoholic, and longtime river resident Isa (Page Leong), who is emotionally ravaged by her younger brother’s gang murder. More eclectic plot lines involve a poisoned sea turtle (Joel Jimenez) and a Native American ghost, embodied by Nadia Reed’s striking puppet design and voiced by Laural Meade, the strongest singer in the show.

The outstanding design elements, particularly Darcy Scanlin’s remarkable set, augment the beautiful natural setting. The play was created in collaboration with various sources too numerous to name, from residents to expert biologists, and the cast includes professional actors and “community participants,” a mix reflected in the uneven performances.

Many oars have been stuck into this “Water,” but director Juliette Carrillo helms the disparate crew masterfully in this unabashedly didactic production, which is not so much a play as a clarion call to environmental action.

-- F. Kathleen Foley

Touch the Water,” Bowtie Parcel in the Rio de Los Angeles State Park, Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays. Ends June 21. Suggested donation $20. (213) 613-1700 ext 37. Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes.

Caption: Rachel Garcia as Ardea, a Great Blue Heron in ‘Touch the Water.’ Credit: John Luker