Theater Review - 'Water By the Spoonful' is an exceptionally intense experience

Pinch 'n' Ouch takes on Alegria Hudes Pulitzer Prize-winning play

Though performances at Pinch 'n' Ouch Theatre are consistently exciting and challenging, the current production of Water By the Spoonful is an exceptionally intense experience. Based on the description of the plot, one might expect a depressing evening, but the Pulitzer Prize-winning play ultimately is inspirational, and the charged performances quickly drive the action forward.

The play, by Quiara Alegria Hudes, who also wrote the book for the Broadway musical In the Heights, centers on a young war veteran who recently lost his mother and a group of self-proclaimed "crackheads" who participate in an online chat room to help each other stay sober. At the outset, this doesn't sound like a recipe for fun, particularly as it can be difficult to present characters typing in a chat room in a way that is visually interesting for the audience. The Pinch 'n' Ouch crew, however, are more than up to the challenge of making the production compelling, and the realistic dialogue creates relatable, human characters.

Director Grant McGowen keeps his actors moving throughout the play so that the chat room characters physically move into each other's spaces as quickly as the language darts around the fictional room. The intimate space of the theater ensures the audience will feel instantly drawn in to the production, but the physical movement of the characters makes clear how these people affect and move each other even without being able to see one another, and how, without this interaction, they may be stuck in place.

The play is inarguably heavy, but it avoids the typical trappings of addiction-themed art, and it's relatable for any audience member who has behavior he or she needs help to change. It handles themes of struggle and loss realistically, acknowledging the ridiculousness of self-help slogans while admitting they can be helpful. It's a careful balance of being contemporary without being too cool for its own good.

The same could be said for the performances from both seasoned veterans and intriguing newcomers. Pinch 'n' Ouch takes its name from a phrase coined by acting teacher Sanford Meisner, who was known for his truthful approach to acting, and the young actors here, including Mellisa Kunnap, Pedro Ferreira, and Lidia Hanevold, have an appealing raw energy. The distractingly pretty Kunnap makes her stage debut, and it will be exciting to see what the future holds for each of these young actors. They are well-balanced by the experienced strength of actors like Monique Grant, who is exceptional as the chat room guru HaikuMom. Even when simply censoring the expletives of the chat room, Grant is thoughtful and she grounds the play with a consistent realism. Sundiata Rush is also smoothly entertaining as chatter Chutes & Ladders.

Don't expect expensive sets and posh seating, and it's best to leave the kids at home for this one given the adult themes, but this is a vibrant production of Water By the Spoonful that will leave you excited about the current state of Atlanta theater.

More By This Writer


Thursday October 27, 2016 04:20 pm EDT
Pace Academy alum stars in national tour of 'Cabaret' | more...


Tuesday July 19, 2016 11:41 am EDT
image-1? One of Atlanta’s hottest theater tickets this summer is Miss Saigon at Serenbe Playhouse. The musical has pre-sold five times more than the venue’s previous biggest hit, last summer’s Evita. The run has also been extended for a week — all this before opening night! Artistic Director Brian Clowdus and co. are bringing all of the drama you’d expect from a Serenbe production,... | more...


Wednesday March 30, 2016 04:00 am EDT
Actor's Express new production investigates ATL Child Murders and family | more...


Monday March 21, 2016 01:24 pm EDT

image-1 It’s that old story: Girl goes to fair, girl meets cute carnie boy, boy gets fired, girl ends up pregnant and alone. Serenbe Playhouse’s artistic director Brian Clowdus is staging another Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, but it won’t be the traditional take on Carousel. “You know me,” Clowdus says. “Anything I do, I want to reinvent and shake up.” Serenbe’s productions take place...

| more...


Friday March 18, 2016 09:53 am EDT
image-1For Atlanta actress Terry Burrell, she dreamt of creating a one-woman show about stage and screen star Ethel Waters back in 1990. But it would be 20 years before she had the real life experience necessary to bringing such a complicated woman’s story into full form. (Waters was born in 1896 to a teenage rape victim, spending her childhood in poverty before entering an abusive marriage at... | more...
Search for more by Keely L. Herrick

[Admin link: Theater Review - 'Water By the Spoonful' is an exceptionally intense experience]