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BWW Review: Arizona Theatre Company Presents Sean Daniels' THE WHITE CHIP ~ Live And Online ~ Incisive, Sobering And Healing

Something novel (besides COVID-19) and engaging (as opposed to distancing) is happening on Arizona Theatre Company's Facebook page and YouTube channel (only until May 15th), and, dear reader, you do not want to miss it. It's the live performance of THE WHITE CHIP, Sean Daniels' incisive and compelling play about an artist's (his) descent into and recovery from addiction to alcoholism.

As part of ATC's initiative (made more urgent and essential in the face of the current crisis) to offer diverse creative content online, Daniels engaged members of the original off-Broadway cast to perform a live reading of his play with the extra goal of raising funds for the Company and The Voices Project, a grassroots recovery advocacy organization.

It takes courage to reveal oneself, to expose one's vulnerabilities, and to invite strangers into one's personal space. The beauty and grace of theatre is that the risk is worth the outcome when strangers become friends and when audiences cross over horizons of new understanding and empathy.

That's the courage exhibited by Daniels whose New York premiere of the play at 59E59 Theaters last year received rave reviews. To those plaudits, let me add mine!

And that's the power of this play, an absorbing confessional made all the more intense and impactful by the breathtaking performance of Joe Tapper as Steven, the aspiring director whose addiction threatens the fulfillment of his dreams.

Tapper steers Steven through a wild ride of emotions with an intensity that is non-stop riveting. He is visceral. He is disarming, blessed with an infectious wit. He is the happy drunk, the functional alcoholic, the endlessly denying and rationalizing addict. He is the man driven to the next drink by desperation and fear. He is the out-of-control soul careening towards rock bottom. He is the saved soul, celebrating his last white chip, the AA token given to returnees following a relapse.

As Steven chronicles his affair with alcohol ~ from his post-baptism introduction to drink at the age of 12 (cited by his classmates as "most likely to exceed") through the highs of his recoveries and the lows of his relapses to his ultimate redemption ~ he recalls as well his encounters with the driving forces of his life's journey.

They include a complement of distinctive characters ~ his acerbic mother, his Parkinson's afflicted father, the relentless AA sponsor and Jewish recovery specialists who offer him an alternative road to self-fulfillment and healing ~ each given a unique face and expression by Genesis Oliver and Finnerty Steeves who are outstanding as they shift from one role to another in this seamless production, directed by Sheryl Kaller.

Watching the performance online generates an unanticipated intimacy between the characters and the viewer. Not for one moment did I miss the confines of the black box. The walls of the split screens in which the three actors resided seemed to evaporate without my knowing it. The experience proves that if we cannot partake of the conventional theatre experience, we still have the means to enjoy the drama and the wit of an achievement such as THE WHITE CHIP. A must see!

Poster credit to ATC

Arizona Theatre Company ~ ~ 1636 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ ~ 602-256-6995

Broadcast through May 15th on ATC's Facebook page and YouTube channel

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From This Author Herbert Paine