For the past two years, San Diegans’ life has been affected by a prolonged separation from loved ones and new virtual relationships with online friends and colleagues.
That makes Quiara Alegría Hudes’ 2011 Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Water by the Spoonful” perfect for this spring. It’s about an Iraqi veteran trying to find family connections and his place in the world, while his aunt starts a national chatline for a desperate community of drug users who support each other every hour. It opened Saturday at the Cygnet Theatre in Old Town.
Sean Murray, Cygnet’s artistic director, said: “It’s a beautiful and moving story focused on letting go of past pains, reaching out to each other when you need it most, and nurturing relationships.”
Meg DeBoard, who is making her Cygnet directorial debut, is Director of the Theatre Program at Point Loma Nazarene University (PLN) in San Diego, holds a directing degree from the University of Essex in London and recently completed a directing fellowship at The Old Globe in San Diego. DeBoard, who has directed at PLN, Grosmont College, and the Scripps Ranch Theater, and was an assistant director with Rob Lutfy on Cygnet’s 2016 production of “When the Rain Stops Falling,” said it was “a spoonful of water.” Has the same dreamlike quality.
“I believe Sean asked me to direct this drama because I’m more of a lyrical director. Even if it’s a realistic drama, I look at metaphors rather than literals when directing,” she said. “The play has an air of magical realism, and he knows that’s my directing style.”
“A Spoonful of Water” is the second of three plays, “The Elliott Cycle,” which Hooders wrote between 2007 and 2014. In the first play, “Elliot, the Soldier’s Fugue,” 19-year-old Elliot Ortiz has just come from the war and shares his combat trauma with an older family member who is also a war veteran. The second play, “Water in a Spoon,” finds 26-year-old Elliott battling demons caused by war. In the third play, “The Happiest Song Last Played,” Elliott found peace and a sense of belonging.
Hudes, who is of Puerto Rican descent, studied music before becoming a playwright. It helped her write the book for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award-winning Latin musical “In the Heights,” and Elliot Cycle, each with its own musical theme. The first play is built around a Bach fugue, which DeBoard describes as melodic and coherent in style. Based on saxophonist John Coltrane’s dissonant jazz album A Love Supreme, “Water by the Spoonful” features improvisation and “ugly” outbursts. The final play features Puerto Rican folk songs.
DeBoard said the music runs through each show and communicates the relationship between the characters. In “Water,” characters merge and clash—sometimes simultaneously—in the same physical space, virtual space, and spiritual world.
“It’s important that we have these overlapping moments. It’s like jazz,” Debord said. “It’s definitely a drama where you should say goodbye to realism for a while and lean towards the surprise that anything can happen.”
San Diego actor and Cygnet veteran Steven Lone plays Elliott. In 2010, he played a younger version of Elliot in “Elliot, a Soldier’s Fugue” at the now-closed Ion Theatre in Hillcrest. DeBoard said Lone reflected in the rehearsal how he and Elliot got older, wiser, etc. during that time.
Lone, whose parents immigrated from El Salvador and Nicaragua, was one of several Latino members of the cast. Puerto Rico-born actor Berto Fernández served as the show’s cultural advisor. Another behind-the-scenes element DeBoard says she appreciates is having an almost exclusively female design team.
“As someone who is often the only woman on an art team, it’s very inspiring, exciting and purposeful to work with strong, creative and collaborative women,” she said. “I haven’t seen this kind of male-to-female ratio on any other show where I’ve worked professionally in San Diego.”
‘a spoonful of water’
when: Open Saturday until April 24th. Showtimes, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 pm. Friday and Saturday at 8pm.Sunday 2pm
Where: 4040 Twiggs St., San Diego
tickets: $25 and above
telephone: (619) 337-1525
Coronavirus Protocol: Proof of complete vaccine within 14 days of screening or negative COVID-19 PCR test within 72 hours of screening, photo ID required. Masks are only required for unvaccinated guests.