San Jose Repertory Theatre is currently presenting a bio-drama, a true tale about the alcoholic New York stock broker, Bill Wilson and the alcoholic Akron surgeon, Dr. Bob Smith, who founded Alcoholics Anonymous in the 1930s and pioneered its 12-step treatment for alcoholism.  “Bill W. and Dr. Bob” is a docu-drama wherein it persuades the merits of AA are that alcoholism is a disease.  That it is a preoccupation of the mind united with an allergy of the body.

 These docu-dramas with a message are hard to produce on stage. However under the direction of Richard Sheer and a splendid cast they have made drama very touching, serious and even funny.  You don’t have to be an alcoholic to enjoy this play.  As Bill Wilson says in the play “the only person who can help a drunk is another drunk.

   The play opens with Bill W. (Ray Chambers) and Dr. Bob (Robert Sicular) in two separate pools of light, talking about themselves, one at a time, as if at an AA meeting.   The story unfolds onstage on how these two men whose relationship and attempts at keeping each other ignited the beginning of AA. This is a well-crafted drama and it sticks to history as correctly and carefully as possible.  There is humor in the play and it used generously.

 Much of the first act is about setting the initial meeting between the two men in Akron.  Both deny they have a problem with booze and keep telling their wives and friends they are off the bottle and then fall back into the bottle.  Bill is the first one to break free becoming clean and sober after an epiphany while in the hospital recovering from a drunken night.  He is clean for five months, when he faces temptation at a bar in Akron on the business trip.  He needs to talk to another alcoholic and after many telephone calls he ends up meeting Dr. Bob. The rest of the play is about how they set up the AA, their developing interactions with their wives and their big breakthrough when they are able to reach other alcoholics.

 Ray Chambers delivers an effervescent performance as Bill Wilson and as a vibrant salesman or as a man who could sell a refrigerator to an Eskimo. Robert Sicular as Dr. Bob is excellent keeping his drunken scenes from becoming too broad a humor.     Carrie Paff and Kandis Chapll give strong performances as the long suffering wives of the Bill and Bob. Cindy Goldfield and Mike Ryan play a variety of small characters with clarity and ease.

  Under the astute direction of Richard Seer the play flies at breakneck speed with precise and purposeful movement with quick and seamless set changes against a wall consisting of hundreds of liquor thanks to set designer Robin Sanford Roberts. Lighting by Trevor Norton and costumes by Cathleen Edwards add to dramatic effects of the docu-drama.

 “Bill W. and Dr. Bob is a textured, truthful telling of the AA’s story and it humanizes the world of addiction honestly. The drama plays through July 15th at San Jose Repertory Theatre, 101 Paseo de San Antonio, San Jose.   For tickets call 408.367.7255 or on line at