Quote of the Day: I’m waiting for you to come alive. A reoccurring theme in the play Bill W. and Dr. Bob, about the founders of AA and their wives who started Al-Anon. The authors of this play, Samuel Shem and Janet Surrey have this message in the program notes: The Authors wish to express their thanks for permission to use material from Alcoholics Anonymous, but publication of this work does not imply affiliation with nor approval or endorsement from Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. It is the story of the two men who found each other and that by talking about their addiction, they could control it and continue their recovery. One day at a time.

The Brainerd Community Theater (BCT) at Central Lakes College (CLC) produced this play three years ago, with a different cast and director (see that review here), to an overwhelming audience response. They had a full, if not sold out, run. Many people who are in recovery are in the audience. Most people who attend this show have someone in their lives who has struggled with addiction and the difficult relationships it creates. Anyone watching this performance can make a connection to the characters and their struggles.

Cast of Bill W. and Dr. Bob, BCT at CLC, through Dec. 8, 2018. Photo by John Erickson

Bill W. and Dr. Bob is a well written play that is filled with both humorous and heart-breaking moments. Director Michael Sanders did an excellent job of bringing both to life. Each actor portrays a realistic and emotional role. Jesse Brutscher plays Bill Wilson who has hit rock bottom. He’s lost almost everything, and his wife and his life are next if he doesn’t get a handle on his drinking. He starts his recovery on his own with some help from a doctor. When he feels that he is slipping off the wagon while doing business out of town, he calls local clergy to get names of alcoholics that he can talk to. He finally connects with Dr. Bob (Marc Oliphant) and what was originally supposed to be a 15 minute meeting, turns into several hours and a lifelong friendship.

Karla Johnson plays Lois Wilson. She’s fed up with her husband’s behavior. She loves him, but can’t live in the chaos and uncertainty that his drinking creates. When she finally meets Dr. Bob’s wife Anne (Bri Keran) she makes a connection that helps her with hope and healing. They form what is now Al-Anon, a support network for people in relationships with addicts (which can be any addiction, alcohol, narcotics, gambling, etc.). They in turn reach out to others and the ripple effect has gone global. Millions of people worldwide have been helped through AA and Al-Anon and Ala-Teen.

All of the actors in this show give a strong performance. Jesse and Marc show us the turmoil and constant struggle with addiction. Karla and Bri draw us in emotionally as they first try to control their addict, then learn to find their own support system. Rachael Kline and Alex Erickson play various characters who are involved in their lives. They both did an excellent job of portraying multiple roles.

You can see Bill W. and Dr. Bob at the Dryden Theater at Central Lakes College through Dec. 8, 2018. All performances are followed by a post-play discussion moderated by someone from Essentia Health in Brainerd. Visit their website or call 218-855-8199 for tickets. The Dryden is the smaller, black box theater, at CLC. The more intimate space and seating surrounding the action creates a sense of being in the moment with the characters. 

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: Do you know someone who struggles with addiction?