“We’re all bozo’s on the bus.” This statement is at the center of a heart-warming production of Bill W. and Dr. Bob, the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, The play, written by Janet Surrey and Samuel Shem, is an emotional roller-coaster about the ups and downs of alcoholism and recovery. The two central characters find each other, bare their souls, and consequently start a program that has saved millions of lives all over the world. These men were from different walks of life, but their common disease, alcoholism, unites them in a very profound way that changed how we look at addiction.
Bill W., played by Patrick Boll, is a successful business man and Dr. Bob, played by Timothy Crowe, is a renowned surgeon. Both of them have had their lives brought to a halt by their perplexing problem when it comes to alcohol. Once these men start drinking all bets are off and the result is horrific dependency, landing them in dark places and ruining their lives. In a moment of clarity, Bill W. discovers that the only way he can stay sober is by helping another alcoholic. In a chance meeting, he finds Dr. Bob, who has struggled with his drinking for many years. Once these two men meet and discover their unique bond, they proceed to look for other alcoholics to help. Interestingly enough, it is through helping others that they stay sober. This discovery becomes one of the cornerstones of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Boll and Crowe are top-notch and capture the hell of active addiction without sensationalizing or demonizing it. Their friendship grows and we see the strong bond between them as they help each other avoid taking the first drink.. They both manage to dive in to their characters fully and bring the conundrum of alcoholism to life. Denise Cormier plays Dr. Bobs disillusioned wife and Deborah Hedwall plays Bill W.’s wife. We get to see the devastation that living with an active alcoholic causes. We feel for these women and identify with their plight right away. Daniel Pearce and Sarah Nealis round out the strong cast. These two actors are the glue of the play. They play many smaller roles and keep the play moving. Their ability to shape-shift quickly is commendable. Pearce plays so many roles that I marveled at his ability to make each one specific and powerful.
The set is superb and done well. This is a great piece of theater and illuminates the good that can come out of bad. Go see this show and discover what two men can do when they come together for a single cause. Addiction and alcoholism are so prevalent today that everyone can relate to this story, which is precisely why this is a fine example of theater that matters. It’s an uplifting piece that leaves you with a sense of hope “one day at a time”.
Plays Now through Jan 5, 2014 at Soho Playhouse 15 Van Dam St. http://billwanddrbob.com