By Sandi Durell
Is there a specific gene that’s the predisposition to alcoholism? Otherwise it’s difficult to find a good Mormon Boy (or was he a bad one?) who, at a young tender age, was already tasting and liking beer, ongoing through college at Brigham Young and through his entire adulthood.
That’s the basic storyline of Sean Daniel’s quick-witted comedy/tragedy (based on his own life), smoothly directed by Sheryl Kaller from the Arizona Theatre Company (Tom Kirdahy & Hunter Arnold) at 59e59 Theaters.
The opening vignettes find hot shot-fast talking Steven (played by whirling dervish Joe Tapper) who’s in trouble more than out but is skilled in the art of BS and knows how to hold and conceal his liquor especially when it’s vodka mixed in a Coke bottle.
Kudos to the other cast members Genesis Oliver and Finnerty Steeves (both quick as lightning in changing characters) playing multi-roles (from friends, to bosses, to wives, girlfriends, Mom and Dad) in the multitude of scenes that portray Steven’s fall from grace. From a marriage to a girl he basically picks up in Vegas that results in opting for an open relationship – she in Calif., he in Kentucky pursuing his theatrical endeavors as a director at a small theater company, and to be closer to his parents especially when his Dad is dealing with Alzheimer’s. Steven is good at what he does, getting great results, applause from his boss who chooses to ignore his drinking problem…for now.
Whenever he comes into contact with his larger-than-life mother, on her own path to sobriety, her usual response to him is F U, as Steven progresses from a drunk driving charge and jail time, while managing to dodge a myriad of problems personal and work related. He has excuses that are sometimes over the top genius so no one finds out he’s a drunk. He finally lands in an AA meeting where he decides to have a go at overcoming the monkey on his back; 70 days go by drink free and then he’s off on a bender. That’s where he receives his white chips (tokens given for day one of sobriety by AA) each time he gives it another try eventually winding up in a detox facility.
There are clever lines and funny moments on a golf course when he and his buddy try to scatter Dad’s ashes on the 18th hole; visits with Mom in Florida entering a rehab while an ex drug addict attempts to counsel him as Steven temporarily finds prayer. He winds up at the very bottom. Can he ever recover?
The play poses questions about prayer, religion, chemistry and science vs. a higher power as we bear witness to Steven’s dependency and continued spiraling out of control until he finds his path.
At times, the pace can be quick with lots of humor to stave off the inevitable tragedy of wasting away one’s life as an alcoholic. But then there are sudden lulls that counteract.
Lawrence E. Moten III’s set design consists of chairs, bookcase/cubby holes, a blackboard – that are all moved around continually by the cast.
The White Chip continues thru October 26 at Theater B at 59e59 Theaters. 1 hr. 30 min. (no intermission)