Saturday, March 19, 2011

Bill W. and Dr. Bob

Bill W. and Dr. Bob
by Roger Smith
“…and the wisdom to know the difference.” Powerful words, when one stops to really think about them. Powerful words for a powerful program. And it is possible to see the beginning of it here in 1935 Northeast Ohio. Bill W. and Dr. Bob, the story of how Alcoholics Anonymous got its start, is on the stage at The Cleveland Play House at 8500 Euclid Avenue.
Because alcoholism touches 1 out of 4 of us, it is easy to understand why this show is playing to sold out houses wherever it goes. The history and the script are entertaining and enlightening; the production is riveting – so much so that there were tears shed throughout the audience at several points during the evening.
Sean Patrick Reilly (Bill W.) comes to the Play House stage loaded with talent and experience. His portrayal of the drunken failed stockbroker Bill W. was true to life as seen through the eyes of anyone who has ever held hands with a drinker. Matching him drink for drink and emotion for emotion, Timothy Crowe was fall-down dead on as Dr. Bob, a surgeon who operated with alcohol on his breath.
Denise Cormier and Margaret Daly as Lois Wilson and Anne Smith, respectively, gave performances that were sincere in their doubt laced with serenity and courage.
In supporting multi-persona roles, Heather Anderson Boll (woman) and Charles Kartali (man) rounded out the excellent cast.
The set for Bill W. and Dr. Bob is one of the most intricate workings this writer has experienced in a long while. Staged amidst an array of empty liquor bottles, the transformation from scene to scene is amazing.
One can take away much from this offering. The most important thing to be learned is that it is necessary for one who has ‘been there and done that’ to be the ear for one who has taken Step 1.
Because of understandable audience demand, the run of this play has been extended until Sunday, May 9. Tickets may be reserved by phoning The Cleveland Play House box office at 216-795-7000 ext. 4, or by visiting


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