The Twelfth Step

Bill W. and Dr. Bob
photo: Carol Rosegg

Anyone with a passing familiarity with AA has probably heard "The Serenity Prayer." In it, one asks for "the serenity to accept the things I cannot change." For theatergoers sitting through Stephen Bergman and Janet Surrey's earnest yet dramatically shallow look at the genesis of AA, Bill W. and Dr. Bob, this mantra might prove to be useful.

As the play explores the coincidences that led these two men to one another and then, to the realization that alcoholics talking with other alcoholics might be a viable alternative to prayer, sanitariums, or death (the only real "cures" of the period), the playwrights take an approach that alternates between melodrama and jokey comedy. Bill W. (Robert Krakovski), whose disease is compounded by his extreme drive for success, comes off like a pushy used-car salesman, particularly once he and Dr. Bob (Patrick Husted), who is depicted merely as a cranky geezer, begin to test their theories about what would become the groundbreaking 12-step program. As these two slip in and out of sobriety, audiences empathize with their long-suffering wives (played compassionately by Rachel Harker and Kathleen Doyle) simply because theatergoers, like these woman, find their patience being tried—by this exasperating play.

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