nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
September 11, 2008
Alcohol, a new play written and directed by Kyle Bradstreet, tells the story of Jack, a 27-year-old man who has just gone to his first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. It's a one-man show; Jack, portrayed by James Fauvell, is telling us about the meeting and about his life, as if we were sitting next to him in one of the friendly bars he used to frequent.
The play is structured like a mystery, with the big "reveal" at the end being the circumstances that led him to attend this AA meeting. They are dramatic and unexpected, but they are also out of step with what comes before and represent the weakest aspect of the piece.
Bradstreet's strength, as a writer, is in vivid, theatrically poetic description. Jack tells us about the other folks he encounters at the meeting, and we can see them clearly and know who they are. And he tells us about his love and dependency for drink and for the woman who is his soulmate, and we understand what they mean to him. Whiskey is romanticized here, but there's always an underlying melancholy that lets us see that Jack knows that alcohol, for all its allure, is not really the answer.
But when it comes time to explain how Jack's drinking problem became a Serious Problem, well, Bradstreet lets go of the easy tone he's heretofore stuck to and instead piles on the drama. It makes for a jarring finish to a play that might otherwise be a thoughtfully impressionistic, introspective piece about the double-edged sword that is addiction.
Fauvell makes a likable enough protagonist for this play, conveying the underlying sadness of this character will particular skill. He's also very funny, especially when describing and/or depicting the behavior of his fellow AA meeting-goers. But under Bradstreet's direction there's a sameness to the rhythm of the piece and although Fauvell moves around the space and interacts regularly with a pot of coffee, there's not quite enough variety in the action to stave off a kind of monotony in places where the narrative wavers or repeats itself.
That said, there is certainly talent on display in this production of Alcohol, and Bradstreet and Fauvell both bring energy and fresh perspective to a timeless subject.