Bill W. & Dr. Bob

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>2/5

The story of the two men who founded Alcoholics Anonymous makes for searing drama—in the 1989 TV movie My Name is Bill W., with an Emmy-winning performance by James Woods. But in this odd new play, equal parts historical reenactment, cautionary tale and screwball comedy, the title characters’ journeys are reduced to a series of broad, melodramatic episodes, like a drunk remembering snippets of his life in between blackouts.

Bill W. (Krakovski) and Dr. Bob (Husted) pursued different paths—the stock market and medicine, respectively—but come the 1930s, they were both fighting the same seemingly unbeatable demon. A chance meeting in Akron, Ohio, enabled both men to stay sober, save their marriages and launch their self-help crusade.

Most of the key action occurs offstage, and tired techniques are used to advance the plot: Characters read aloud from their journals and letters or engage in talky philosophical debates. Strangely, humor (only sometimes intentional) abounds. When it’s organic, such as Husted’s delightful performance as the cantankerous Dr. Bob, it adds some much needed levity. But other choices, such as clichd period slang (“hotcha,” “goofballs”) and overwrought detox scenes, make you wonder: What were the playwrights drinking? — Raven Snook

New World Stages . By Stephen Bergman and Janet Su. Dir. Rick Lombardo. With Robert Krakovski, Patrick Husted. 2hrs 15mins. One intermission.