Bradford S. Lovette – Dr. Michael and Judith Weinberg
Evelyn Freed – Milton D. McKenzie
in association with
New Repertory Theatre
BILL W. and Dr. BOB
By STEPHEN BERGMAN and JANET SURREY
New World Stages, 340 W. 50 St., NYC
Opening Night: March 5, 2007
Closing: June 10, 2007
Director/Sound Designer RICK LOMBARDO
Scenic Designer ANITA FUCHS
Costume Designer JANE ALOIS STEIN
Lighting Designer DANIEL MEEKER
Music Composer/Performer RAY KENNEDY
Fight Choreographer TED HEWLETT
Press Representative SAM RUDY MEDIA RELATIONS
Bill Wilson – Robert Krakovski
Dr. Bob Smith – Patrick Husted
Man – Marc Carver
Lois Wilson – Rachel Harker
Anne Smith – Kathleen Doyle
Woman – Deanna Dunmyer
I admit it. I had some preconceived notions about a play about the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous. Surprisingly, they were all unfounded. AA is referred to only once during the course of BILL W. and Dr. BOB, in the epilogue, and we see the founders in a not entirely brutal, but a genuinely flawed and human light. Most unexpected, however, was the humor. How human, however, to find humor, perhaps gallows humor, in the depiction of situations so inherently dire. Admittedly, the show progresses a tad too slowly at first, with a series of scenes displaying the requisite unhappy home lives of the title characters. Towards the end of act one, however, when these two men cross paths and begin to talk, revealing their demons to one another and the audience simultaneously, the heart of the show begins to beat.
There is some engaging acting in BILL W. and Dr. BOB. Most notably, Patrick Husted as the hard drinking and pill-popping surgeon, Dr. Bob Smith and Kathleen Doyle as his long-suffering wife. The play itself shifts between a memoir and an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting confessional. Not written as the dark, uncomfortable cautionary tale it could have been, authors Bergman and Surrey opted instead for a lighter travelogue of the lives of a couple of pathetic drunks who turned their lives around, and then set on a mission to save other drinkers, one at a time.
Anita Fuchs’ looming set design, complete with large, sliding wood panels, enhances the sense of being overwhelmed that the characters in the play seem to be experiencing. Not only the drinkers at the center of the play, BILL W. and Dr. BOB, but their wives, colleagues, acquaintances, friends and even strangers are impacted by their behavior. Rick Lombardo’s brisk direction, a style that also enables the actors to play to the unlikely humor in the situations, as well as the airy, live piano music courtesy of Ray Kennedy, counteracts the looming doom.
The overall package that is BILL W. and Dr. BOB has been tempered enough to make this work palatable for most audiences. It is an interesting slice of history being portrayed. Perhaps not rendered to perfection, but delivered with a consistent style, definitely notable.
- Kessa De Santis -