April 16, 2014

New Broadway Show Paints A Scathing Picture Of AA

I happened upon some free tickets to see Stephen Adley Guirgis’ new play The Motherfucker With The Hat, and had no idea what I was in for.  The show paints a scathing picture of AA and life in “recovery” – or maybe that’s just my interpretation.  The show never directly criticizes AA, and the playwright may actually like AA – I don’t know.  It’s “about” a few strong characters, the drama in their lives, and how they affect each other – as any good drama should be – but the drama is driven by the fact that AA and recovery is what keeps these people abusing each other.  So one way or another, it is a criticism of the recovery culture.

Not having known anything about the show, I cringed at first when recovery and AA was mentioned, thinking that this subject would be glazed over as a positive thing, but by the 3rd or 4th scene I could see that this wasn’t a fluff piece.  In it, Chris Rock plays an unscrupulous 13th Stepping AA sponsor to the show’s main character, a violent alcoholic who frequently gets in trouble with the law, played by Bobby Cannavale.  What is 13th stepping?  It’s when people hook up in AA, and the negative connotation has to do with the fact that it’s usually senior members who should have their heads on straight, are sexually pursuing newer more fragile and vulnerable members.  For fear of spoiling the show, I won’t go into the plot anymore.  I’ll just say that the show paints a realistic picture of some of the dangers of the 12-step lifestyle, and the ruin that comes with 13th stepping which is far too common of a practice.  The show is smart, funny, it’s dramatic, has an incredible cast, and it’s definitely one of the better plays I’ve seen in a while.  Check it out.

I just noticed the show’s tagline is: 2 Hearts. 12 Steps.  1 Hat.

They should change that to: 2 Hearts. 13 Steps.  An infinite amount of needless destruction thanks to AA.

Comments

  1. Well, I was going to skip this one, but will try to see it now that I have your review of it.

  2. I find the much of the “liturgy” of AA to be pretty absurd. In particular, its barely disguised (“higher power” my ass) god-worship really puts me off. I don’t mind the folksy cliches; they’re cliches, but they’re mostly true, and I certainly prefer them to the overly scientific sounding acronyms of, say, SMART Recovery. Still, it’s funny to see grownups repeating Hallmark Card phrases as if they were ancient canonical sutras.

    What DOES work for me is the storytelling and introspection of the members at meetings. It’s like inexpensive group therapy. It’s also very nice to have a place where I don’t need to keep up a happy face. People are allowed to be bummed there, which in our overly-positive society, is a great relief. Finally, I like the ritualistic rhythm of just attending, sitting, having some coffee. It can be quite meditative for me.

    I’m nearly two years sober. I couldn’t stop drinking before I attended AA meetings. I fear drinking again if I stop attending AA meetings. I don’t believe in god, the disease model (maybe I’d accept a mental illness model) or the 12 steps. But I do believe in the helpfulness of AA.

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