Bob Smith suffers from the acute after-effects of binge drinking at one point in "Bill W. and Dr. Bob," a play that will be presented by Brainerd Community Theatre on Oct. 1-3 and Oct. 8-10 in the Dryden Theatre at Central Lakes College in Brainerd.
Bob's friend, Bill Wilson, administers him with a remedy of tomatoes and Karo syrup. Bob asks, "You ain't givin' up on me?" and Bill continues to ply him with the purgative. The idea of not giving up, of never trying to find a way out of the pit of despair, is what fueled the real-life men who founded Alcoholics Anonymous. It is the driving central point of the play.
Written by Samuel Shem and Janet Surrey, "Bill W. and Dr. Bob" shows how these two men separately grappled with their alcoholism-fueled demons before joining their efforts. Bill Wilson worked in the field of high finance as a stockbroker, making fortunes and losing them almost overnight. Bob Smith was a surgeon performing operations while drunk. Both spent their lives trying to find a way out of the grip of alcohol, seeking guidance, being prayed for, counseled, cajoled, threatened and ostracized. A chance meeting in Akron, Ohio, led the men to discover there was a glimmer of hope: Through honest and open conversation, through admission of the problem they had, and through mutual support.
Over a period of several years they developed what is now known as the Twelve Step Program. The program has not only helped millions of alcoholics, but is the model for substance abuse treatment in a more universal sense. The play follows the men as they struggle to find the best way forward, and it also chronicles their wives' efforts at lending support, efforts which led to the founding of Al-Anon.
Told with drama and much humor, the play has been described as "Deeply human, audience-embracing, a remarkable story," Variety had written. The New Yorker called it "An endearing portrait of friendship uplifted by warm humor."
The cast features Erik Steen as Bill Wilson and Patrick Spradlin as Bob Smith. Steen also directs the play and Spradlin is the CLC Theatre director. Steen and Spradlin have appeared in joint projects such as "Art," "The Weir" and "Woman in Black."
Portraying the wives of the men in the story are Bri Keran and Beth Selinger. Keran is a veteran of many BCT productions, most recently in this past summer's show "Steel Magnolias." Selinger has appeared in numerous productions in Brainerd, in the Pequot Lakes Community Theatre, has directed several shows and is the founding director of the Old Creamery Theatre in Randall.
Nicholas Kory and Linda Nichols portray a variety of supporting characters. Kory's most recent role was that of Truffaldino in "The Servant of Two Masters." Nichols has held the title role in "The Diary of Anne Frank" and was Laura in "The Glass Menagerie."
Costumes are designed by Dawn Marks. Ben Kent provides lighting and sound design. Tim Leagjeld provides scenic consultation. New CLC technical director George Marsolek oversees the technical aspects of the production.
The play takes stage at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 1-3 and Oct. 7-10, with an additional 2 p.m. matinee on Oct. 10.
Go to www.clcmn.edu/arts for tickets and information or contact the Central Lakes Community Performing Arts Center Box Office at 218-855-8199.