Nicholas W. McClellan
Nicholas W. McClellan

For three long days, I thought about it, the title to Woody Allen’s comedy-classic, Don’t Drink the Water, currently in production at Van Wert Civic Theatre. I read the script twice, thinking to myself, “Did I miss something?” No where in the script does it mention anything about water.

Could the title just be a simple idiom, a warning to those traveling abroad? Let’s look at the premise for this production. At the center of the action is Axel Magee (Mac King), son to Ambassador James F. Magee (Steve Bricker). Axel has been left in charge of the embassy while his father is away on business. Unfortunately (fortunately for audience members), the Ambassador’s son “is the only man in the history of the foreign service to accidentally wrap his lunch in a peace treaty.”

Just moments after the Ambassador is out the door, pandemonium ensues! An American tourist (Steve Lane), a caterer by trade, his wife (Amber Evans) and his daughter (Jenna Brunk) rush into the embassy two steps ahead of the Communist police who suspect them of spying. With the assistance of Axel Magee and a Catholic Priest (who’s also an amateur magician performed by Perry S. Luhn) the family carefully plots their escape from the embassy and the clutches of Communism.


Apparently, the answer is yes; Don’t Drink the Water, premiering March 13, has nothing to do with water or the consumption of it. But, that didn’t stop me from doing some exhaustive googling concerning water in attempt to relate the title to themes within the show.

Encouraging someone to “not drink the water” when traveling brings up issues of trust, a principal theme of Don’t Drink the Water. It’s about relationships, the bonds between family members, between near-strangers. Its about a mutual dependence between individuals to accomplish something and in the process, becoming more than individuals. They become a team (Democracy versus Communism. Spoiler alert: Democracy wins!).

Water acts in very much the same way. For millennia, scientists considered water an element all on its own, but a water molecule contains one oxygen atom and two hydrogen atoms. These atoms are bound together by shared electrons.

The natural water molecule has a ‘V’ shape; in electrical terms, it is polar, meaning that one side of the molecule carries a negative charge (the oxygen atom) and the other side carries a positive charge (the hydrogen atoms). In this way, a water molecule is somewhat like a magnet. But, it’s not enough for this newly formed molecule of water to simply exist on its own. Because of their natural polarity, water molecules attract one another and stick together. Not only does hydrogen and oxygen want to share resources, they want to work closely together.

The characters in VWCT’s production of Don’t Drink the Water may not be as willing to work side by side when facing adversity as our pals oxygen and hydrogen (i.e. the blunders, buffoonery, and the ego trips which are a source of non-stop laughs). Yet, once they learn about themselves, discover what each other has to offer, they begin to understand that the only way to escape the embassy without dying at the hands of the Communist police is to bond, trust each other and work as a team.

Thankfully for our lives and our survival, hydrogen and oxygen have been a team since just shortly after the Big Bang. And even though Woody Allen may have never meant the title of Don’t Drink the Water to be anything more than a reference to the dangers of traveling in foreign lands, I think a little understanding of how water works relates poignantly to the plot and the importance of interdependence. Without each other, we are less likely to succeed, let alone survive.

The completely volunteer cast of Don’t Drink the Water has been working together and bonding for over a month and is nearly ready to present a night of pure comedy from the mind of the Woody Allen. Support the arts and community by joining us on March 13, 14, 15, 16, 20, 21, 22, or 23.

The box-office opens to the general public March 10. Call (419) 238-9689 between 2 and 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday to make your reservations. Tickets are $10. For more information, visit http://vwct.org, “like” us on Facebook, and “follow” us on Pinterest and Twitter.

Ice hope to sea you at the show and if you can think of some better water-related puns, let minnow.