Popular play returns to explore foundations of AA - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

Popular play returns to explore foundations of AA

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Posted: Sunday, October 17, 2010 4:00 pm | Updated: 12:37 am, Mon Nov 1, 2010.

A touring show that left town with a long waiting list of people hoping to score tickets is back for theater-goers to see one more time.

“Bill W. and Dr. Bob,” the true story of two drunks whose relationship became the genesis of Alcoholics Anonymous, will play Thursdays through Sundays through Nov. 7 at the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre in Mesa.

“We were sold out the last time we came through, and that’s happened in every city we’ve been to. We’ve had to add an additional cast,” says the show’s director, Gary Kimble. He also plays the “Bill W.” character in Friday-night performances.

Based on the lives of Bill Wilson, a New York stockbroker, and Bob Smith, an Ohio surgeon, who struck up a friendship that eventually led both men to sobriety and served as the basis for the worldwide 12-step addiction recovery program known as AA, the play is not quite what people expect, says Kimble.

“It really is not about AA. AA is only mentioned once, at the very end of the play, and that’s because AA didn’t exist at the point at which the play is set. At the time (1925-1935), it was a lot like now. There was economic ruin and people out of work, and these two guys were trying to keep each other sober and figure out how to pass what they had learned along the way to other people. There’s a lot of joy in it, and people are surprised by how hilarious it is,” he says.

The production is more than just another acting gig for Kimble and co-star, Richard Springle, who plays “Dr. Bob.” The two met years ago as actors on the national tours of Broadway musicals such as “My Fair Lady.”

“Richard had been sober many years, and I was a fall-down drunk and an addict. After our last tour, we lost touch because I went off into addiction madness. But when I hit bottom, I called him,” says Kimble.

Springle broke open Kimble’s door, physically carried him down four flights of stairs and checked him into rehab.

“He did that a couple of times because it took a while for it to stick. He babysat me for a year. He saved my life. I’m sober now 15 years, and Richard’s at about 23 years. And we’re like brothers.”

Springle says the play resonates with people, whether addiction has touched their own lives or not, in large part because of the human connections that Wilson, Smith and their wives — Lois and Anne, respectively — made with each other.

“Everyone has obstacles to overcome and most of us fall into little pits of despair from time to time. (The show) teaches you how to push the fear away and keep going, and how helping someone else can heal your own spirit. People are more important than all the things you own. You can make a real life helping others and knowing others. And once you make a bond, it will last forever and comfort you; there’s someone to call when you’re in need,” says Springle.

Tickets for the show are available by phone or in person at the box office. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the local chapter of The National Council On Alcoholism and Drug Dependence and Weldon House, its treatment center for women in recovery and their children.

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