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The White Chip

A stage director hits rock bottom, enters rehab and recovers from his debilitating addiction – even as he attempt to disguise his problem.

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Genesis Oliver, Joe Tapper and Finnerty Steeves in a scene from Sean Daniels’ “The White Chip” at 59E59 Theaters (Photo credit: Carol Rosegg)

David Kaufman

David Kaufman, Critic

“Mormon heaven has multiple levels,” a character says at the beginning of Sean Daniels’ The White Chip, and so does the play, which contains the line. The levels are not all that easy to follow or sort through, however, given the many complications which ensue.

The main character, Steven (Joe Tapper) is a stage director who plans on running a theater company. But he’s also a severe alcoholic who hits rock bottom during the course of the 90-minute play–even as he does his best to disguise his problem. He also eventually ends up in rehab, and recovers from his debilitating addiction. Getting there entails our meeting his parents–Genesis Oliver plays his father, among numerous other characters, and his mother is played by Finnerty Steeves, who also portrays other people in Steven’s life: they include Steven’s wife, his father and drinking companions–not to mention bartenders.

The play’s title refers to the item that everyone is given when they attend their first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. But, as we also learn, they’re given another white chip whenever they relapse, which tends to be often. Despite the tendency for play titles to have more than one meaning, any other meaning for The White Chip is obscure.

Joe Tapper, Finnerty Steeves and Genesis Oliver in a scene from Sean Daniels’ “The White Chip” at 59E59 Theaters (Photo credit: Carol Rosegg)

Written by Sean Daniels, The White Chip is reportedly an autobiographical play, directed with an earnest finesse by Sheryl Kaller who sometimes has difficulty keeping her three different performers in character, in terms of whom they represent. If one has difficulty following the many tangents, Kaller has to be held principally responsible for that.

But for the record, Tapper is a stalwart if youthful Steven and Oliver and Steeves prove quite capable of differentiating their performances, even if it, at times, it proves difficult to know exactly who they are.

The simple set design is by Lawrence E. Moten III, the apt costumes are by Robert C.T. Steele, and the effective lighting is by Rachel Fae Szymanski.

The White Chip (through October 26, 2019)

Arizona Theatre Company, Tom Kirdahy and Hunter Arnold

59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 646-892-7999 or visit http://www.59e59.org

Running time: 90 minutes including one intermission

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David Kaufman
About David Kaufman (113 Articles)
David Kaufman has been covering the theater in New York since 1981. A former theater critic for the New York Daily News, he was also a long-time contributor to the Nation, Vanity Fair, the Village Voice and the New York Times. He is also the author of the award-winning Ridiculous! The Theatrical Life and Times of Charles Ludlam, the best-selling Doris Day: The Untold Story of the Girl Next Door, and his most recent biography, Some Enchanted Evenings: The Glittering Life and Times of Mary Martin.

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