The Improbable Players develop plays about addiction (alcohol/ cocaine /heroin/opiates etc.) which they perform in schools and community settings, with education and prevention their goal. Their impressive showcase, END OF THE LINE: “Confronting the Epidemic” occupied the Mosesian main stage at the Watertown Arsenal this past Wednesday night (Oct. 17th).
Originally conceived and directed by Lynn Bratley (and continued by Joanna Simmons and Chris Everett), the evening of stories and vignettes were gathered by interviewing people who know the pain of addiction without knowing how to embrace change. The actors have lived similar stories because they themselves are in recovery. What comes across to an audience is their generous spirit and a genuine affection for the characters they inhabit.
In one heartbreaking sketch, a small child (Caryn May) finds drugs in her mother’s unattended purse. In another a desperate woman (Meghann Perry) calls multiple pharmacies to renew an opiate prescription with “no refills.” In another scene, a game show host (Jon Riemer) asks the audience to identify the addict. In the last scene of the evening Christian Santilli’s character is literally tied in knots trying to find his way out of the addiction cycle. What we witness in all the depictions is how easily someone in dire need will turn to another, far more dangerous drug without realizing or caring what it will do to them.
Years ago it was thought that ads and slogans could “scare people straight”… Now we know that doesn’t work. Remember Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign or the public service television spot showing an egg crack open in a frying pan. The baritone voice warned us “This is your brain on drugs.” The problem is that these platitudes are impersonal or at best, one size fits all. The dozen or so actors of Improbable Players make their live message of hope “up front and personal” and that makes all the difference.