Celeste Den, Vilma Silva, Barret O'Brien and Bruce A. Young in OSF's 'Water by the Spoonful.' - Photo courtesy of Jenny Graham

OSF presents 'Water by the Spoonful'

Many contemporary playwrights explore the worlds of online technology. Twitter, Facebook, texting — this social media has changed the way we use language. Patrick Marber's 1997 "Closer" is about deception in adult chat rooms; Carlos Murillo's 2007 "Dark Play" was inspired by a teenager's online subterfuge; and Jennifer Haley's "The Nether" is about darkly complex online role-playing.

Oregon Shakespeare Festival's production of Quiara Alegria Hudes' Pulitzer Prize-winning "Water by the Spoonful" shows audiences a chat room that gives its participants a chance to reveal their true selves. Though the participants live thousands of miles apart, they share the fact that they are recovering addicts who've found a safe haven online, and they help each other navigate the challenges they face.

But when an Iraq War vet's tragedy spills into the participants' cyberhome, virtual and real worlds unfold and challenge notions of family, forgiveness, community and courage.

"It's a beautifully crafted and poetic play about isolation and people trying to connect," says director Shishir Kurup in a video on OSF's website. "Addiction is when we're trying to connect with something, the thing we want most, but the way we go after it is actually pushing it away. It's an interesting conundrum."

"Water by the Spoonful" previews at 1:30 p.m. Friday, March 28, and 8 p.m. Saturday, March 29, in the Thomas Theatre on the OSF campus, 15 S. Pioneer St., Ashland. The play opens at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, March 30, and runs through June 20. The show will reopen Sept. 4 and run through Nov. 2.

Tickets start at $25, $60 or $79 and can be purchased at www.osfashland.org or by calling 541-482-4331.

The people in Hudes' play are trying to connect — and stay clean and sober — in their chat room.

"While it's ultimately about people trying to take responsibility for each other, the play's themes explore isolation," Kurup says. "There's a beauty to the way the digital world shrinks the physical world. You can participate with people from all over the world while you remain in your room. There are probably negative aspects to it."

Playwright, director, actor and composer Kurup has worked with Cornerstone Theatre Company in Los Angeles for 20 years. He's worked directly with OSF's Artistic Director Bill Rauch at Cornerstone, and he composed the songs for "Medea" in OSF's 2012 "Medea/Macbeth/Cinderella."

American jazz composer John Coltrane's 1964 studio album "A Love Supreme" is one of the central aspects of Kurup's "Water by the Spoonful."

"It fits, thematically, because there is an idea of a lack of neatness in the play," Kurup says.

"There's a part of jazz that is structured, just like life, but within that structure is improvisation," he says. "We like putting things in their place, but we crave improvisation.

"I want this play to have an emotional impact on the heart, to give audiences the feeling of reaching out. I also want it to open the mind the way that jazz does."

The cast includes Daniel Jose Molina, Nancy Rodriguez, Vilma Silva, Barret O'Brien, Bruce A. Young, Celeste Den and Barzin Akhavan, all members of Actors' Equity Association.

Scenic design is by Sibyl Wickersheimer, lighting is by Geoff Korf, costumes are by Raquel Barreto and sound is by John Nobori.

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