Birmingham’s City Equity Theatre brings light to a dark disease in new play

City Equity Theatre rehearses for "Bill W. and Dr. Bob" (Photo courtesy: Julie Steward)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – Tackling difficult topics through drama is nothing new for Birmingham’s oldest professional theatre company, City Equity Theatre.

CET’s production of “Ruined” earlier this year told the story of how the West’s demand for cell phones – and the materials used to make them – connects to the rape and abuse of women in the Congo.

“We tend to go for edgier productions,” Co-Artistic Director Jonathan Fuller said.

CET’s newest show, “Bill W. and Dr. Bob” is no exception.  It’s a character study on two men who, together, pave the way to recovery for millions of people addicted to alcohol.

“This is the history of how this organization of recovery (Alcoholics Anonymous), which is the mother of all 12-step programs, got started,” Fuller said.

The play tells the true story of Bill Wilson, a stock analyst in the ‘20s who has a heavy drinking habit. When the stock market crashes, Wilson’s drinking escalates.

Wilson tries everything he can to stop drinking. The addiction is destroying his relationship with his wife.

“Being involved in a religious group didn’t work. Realizing self-knowledge of it being a disease didn’t work,” Fuller said.

Through trial and error, Wilson and fellow alcoholic Dr. Bob develop an effective strategy to gain control – not of addiction, but of sobriety.

“What they really needed was a mutual support group,” Fuller said. “And so the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous comes out of that.”

Fuller plays the role of Bill Wilson, and his long-time friend and Co-Artistic Director Alan Gardner plays Dr. Bob.

“And it’s about their relationship. There’s a lot of humor in the play, a lot of pathos,” Fuller said. “Alan is like my best friend, so there’s an emotional shorthand. We play very well together on stage.”

Fuller hopes audiences come away with an understanding of what alcoholism really is – and is not.

“Alcoholism is not a moral failing on anyone’s part,” Fuller said. “It is definitely a genetic kind of disease that also has a ripple effect in the families.”

*** You can catch CET’s production of “Bill W. and Dr. Bob” Thurs. – Sat. at 7:30pm and Sunday at 2:30pm at the Virginia Samford Theatre. Tickets are $25/$30 dollars. Go to www. or call (205) 251-1206. Thursday, Oct. 3rd, begins the final week of the show.***

Copyright 2013 WIAT-TV CBS 42

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