Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Bill W. and Dr. Bob"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 2006 by Carl A. Rossi


"BILL W. AND DR. BOB"

by Stephen Bergman and Janet Surrey
original musical and arrangements by Todd C. Gordon
directed by Rick Lombardo

Bill Wilson … Robert Krakovski
Dr. Bob Smith … Patrick Husted
Man … Marc Carver
Lois Wilson … Rachel Harker
Anne Smith … Kathleen Doyle
Woman … Deanna Dunmyer
Pianist … Todd C. Gordon

Stephen Bergman and Janet Surrey’s BILL W. AND DR. BOB at New Repertory has the feel of an old-time musical minus the songs (a feeling reinforced by Anita Fuchs’ corrugated tomb-setting, so reminiscent of Elton John’s AIDA). The premise is fascinating and worthy --- the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous by stockbroker Bill Wilson and surgeon Bob Smith, two alcoholics who concluded their addiction was a disease, not a character flaw, and helped others to achieve sobriety --- but the evening is long, rambling and episodic; the numerous scenes slide in and out on their platforms while a pianist tickles the ivories, the acting style is musical-presentational and, frankly, some songs would flesh out the libretto-like structure. As it stands now, BILL W. AND DR. BOB catches fire, twice, when the razzmatazz stops and the plot takes root: Act One’s closing scene where Bill helps Bob to see the light and Act Two’s finale where the founders meet and win over their first successful member --- here is involving drama, indeed.

Robert Krakovski makes a handsome, bland Bill; Patrick Husted has the showier role of Bob and vocalizes like water splashing through gravel --- he has a stunning moment when, sober, alcohol is dashed in his face and he reacts as if it were acid. Mr. Husted is well-matched by the husky tones of Kathleen Doyle as Bob’s wife Anne; paradoxically, since Anne has little to do but emote from the sidelines, Ms. Doyle’s is the most rooted performance and therefore the most fully realized one. Ms. Doyle is also saddled with an unintentional running gag when Anne opens the Smith home to whomever crosses the threshold, drunk or sober; after awhile, I envisioned a two-story house taking on the dimensions of a condo, if not a motel.

"Bill W. and Dr. Bob" (5-26 March)
NEW REPERTORY THEATRE
200 Dexter Avenue, WATERTOWN, MA
1 (617) 923-8487

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