Dysfunction reaches new heights and drunk and disorderly takes on new meaning after a flashback through time propels the characters of Bill W. and Dr. Bob into the days leading up to the conception of Alcoholics Anonymous. Bar brawls, bad hangovers and brutal reality intertwine in the Princeton Performing Arts Society’s latest theatrical production. Desperate for a way out from a path of personal destruction led two men together and brought with them a flood of collateral damage too big to ignore.
Wives at their wit’s end were played by Deb Cappos and Della Osborne. Cappos was Dr. Bob’s patient yet frustrated wife. Her role was tough, yet she was able to make the audience understand the victim’s side of alcoholism; the embarrassment, shame, despair and hope. While her husband, Len Fowler portrayed a drunken doctor with absolute believability, Cappos played his wife with absolute conviction. Between the two, Cappos and Fowler set a high standard for the rest to follow. Fowler had some long stints of dialogue and moments of drunken ranting that kept the audience fully engaged and the topic of alcoholism as the main focus through his challenging role.
Della Osborne played Bill Wilson’s wife. Mrs. Wilson’s struggles were heartfelt as Osborne worked her way through the painful process of self-discovery in the midst of her husband’s latest bout of sobriety. Osborne took the character from the stages of near financial ruin to glimmering hope in a marriage near failure with convincing passion. Her face told us the story with its expressions. This was Osborne’s first time in such a large role with the Performing Arts and she pulled it off like a rising star.
Britt Fraser is always a crowd favourite. His mastery of expression and memorization is impressive. Fraser has played a main role in other Princeton Performing Arts Society productions, but none with the depth of Mr. Bill. Mr. Bill’s character faced much personal woe along the way to sobriety and Fraser dug deep and found the man to fit the roller coaster ride of highs and lows of an alcoholic with real emotion.
Jarno Saarinen played Mr. Bill’s best friend and another man fluctuating between sobriety and drunken despair. His eagerness to help his friend Bill become a non-drinker seemed sincere. Saarinen was one of a few pleasant surprises the Performing Arts had up their talented sleeves.
Kaylie Gibb is not new to the world of theatre and leaptg in to take on two smaller parts. Although her parts were bit parts, her effort for her roles as a hotel clerk and wife to an abusive alcoholic were large. It is hoped that the audience will be seeing more of Gibb in the future.
Having been around for a while in the theatrical realm did not make Miranda Mezzatesta’s ego too big to take on a couple of smaller parts this time around. One thing was definitely made true in her portrayal of a frantic mother on the phone…no part is too small. Mezzatesta did a fantastic job as the waitress to her drunken customers as well and it is hoped that she too will be back in many more roles with the local theatre group.
Charles Weber decided to debut as an actor times four. He played several quite different characters during the evening show from the nasty bar drunk to an egomainiac. Weber seemed to enjoy his various personalities and was easily able to pull the audience into his wayward roles. Weber’s debut was worth the wait.
Lee Mowry was another magic act pulled out of the sleeves of the director Esther Donovan. Mowry took on three roles and topped it off with his role as the first man to join Alcoholics Anonymous. Mowry’s played a lawyer at rock bottom and he played him well. The audience was left wondering by play’s end where Mowry had been hiding all these years.
Dick Bird is not new to the Princeton Performing Arts Society and in fact, has played some rather diverse characters in the past. Bird went from reverend to doctor flawlessly this time around. Bird was one of many who took this complex production to the next level.
Another veteran performer, was Pattyann Peal. This time around Peal was Henrietta Sieberling. Peal gave Sieberling just the right amount of spunk.
Alannah Boise played two roles in the play, each with a real presence. Boise’s portrayal of a confused wife was not only believable, but fun. The scene where she first meets Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Wilson was a true gem.
All in all, Bill W. and Dr. Bob was a production that came with a very tall order. The topic was one of harsh complexity. Each character, big or small, was crucial to the overall picture into the world of alcoholism from the wife who floats between hope and hopelessness, to the drunk in denial and the drunk in his own personal hell. It was obvious that a lot of heart and soul went into the making of this play. Scene changes were fast and the costumes were era appropriate. The many actors and backstage crew took on multiple roles behind and in front of watching eyes making this production a winner. Humour was splashed in with healthy dotes while the ending brought feelings of true compassion to the viewers. Two men changed alcoholism from a weakness to a disease. Many changed a play into entertainment worthy of an evening out.