The number of truly world-changing ideas in any given century is actually relatively small, especially if you eliminate technological breakthroughs and focus strictly on social change. What’s more, many of these concepts, whether they are explicitly political in nature, such as socialism, or more cultural, like Esperanto, have a relatively limited lifespan and impact, eventually running out of their initial energy as they confront the realities of an already existing social structure. But one great 20th-century idea, that of the recovery support group, has not only survived the test of time but also spread and succeeded like no other. For millions of people worldwide who are suffering from the potentially life-threatening disease of alcoholism, Alcoholics Anonymous has become the idea that works; it’s the one way that many have used to regain control of their lives and walk away from behaviors that were certain to lead to dire consequences.
In the 2007 drama Bill W. and Dr. Bob, the real-life story of the two men who gave birth to this transformative method of treating addiction is presented as a moving, realistic, and deeply personal journey undertaken by a small group of people who know that their lives are at stake. Beginning on Thursday, April 4, and playing through Saturday, April 13, Happy Destiny Productions will present Bill W. and Dr. Bob at Center Stage Theatre. For tickets and information, call (805) 963-0408 or visit centerstagetheater.org. Last week, I spoke with director Robert Riechel Jr. about the show, and he offered three fine reasons to seek out this uplifting and informative experience.
1. The Realness: “Bill W. and Dr. Bob were both slaves to the bottle,” said Riechel, “and to make that clear and convincing, the show has to be as real as possible. There can be no sanitizing these episodes, because it is through those horrible moments that these men found their way to the faith that gave them back their lives.”
2. The Actors: “Tim Whitcomb is returning to the role of Dr. Bob,” Riechel told me, “and he’s outstanding, as is newcomer John Brindle, who will play Bill W. The whole cast is great.”
3. The Message: “Like a lot of people, my life and my family have been touched by this disease,” said Riechel, “and not only is this show powerful theater; it also sends a powerful message — there is hope for everyone, but everyone needs help.”