'Recovery': Marblehead Play Focuses On Mothers And Their Addicted Children

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At the Marblehead Little Theatre, playwright Anne Lucas watches a rehearsal of her play that's coming to her hometown after its off-Broadway run. "Recovery" tells the story of three young women entering addiction treatment — and their mothers.

Lucas says she wanted to use her writing to reach out to others.

Playwright Anne Lucas (Courtesy of Anne Lucas)
Playwright Anne Lucas (Courtesy of Anne Lucas)

"I wanted to help mothers and families struggling with addicted children to overcome the isolation, the shame and the feeling that they can't talk about this with anyone else," Lucas says.

While the daughters in the play are taught how to live substance free, their moms are reminded that they also need to heal, especially from the trauma of taking care of their addicted daughters. Some of the scenes depict how both mothers and daughters live with addiction — navigating their new relationships shrouded in shame, guilt, fear and lies.

In one scene, one of the characters calls her mother — after being missing for weeks — and asks for money.

"You got 40, 50 bucks?" the daughter asks the mother.

"Of course, but what will you be using that for?" her mother asks.

"To go bowling," the daughter says, rolling her eyes.

"Well that's a nice, healthy activity. Are these new friends?"

"Some. So will you give me the cash?"

"How about if I come and bring it to you?" the mother asks, before the daughter hangs up.

Throughout the play a character called the Demon provides commentary — almost like the subconscious of the cast members — reminding them of the hard work of recovery and the ease at which they could return to being numb, or in denial. The Demon is in a constant struggle with the character the Reverend, a former alcoholic who is running the treatment program.

"These two characters embody a struggle that never ends — between salvation and being lost," Lucas says.

Lucas says she wanted to shed a light on the opioid epidemic's ripple effects, which she says are just as devastating as to those who are struggling with substance use.

The play is also based on her personal experience. Her own daughter is in recovery from heroin addiction.

"People don't see the collateral damage of addiction. I focused on mothers and daughters because it's what I know the best," Lucas says. "Your entire life focuses around saving your child — all you can think about, all you can do is try to prevent them from dying. She would come home and I didn't know what she had taken or if she would wake up. I really became a very anxious, exhausted person on red alert."

After each performance, Lucas has arranged so called "talk backs," where the audience can discuss the play with people directly involved in the opioid epidemic, including policymakers and treatment providers.

Bridget Kathleen O'Leary, artist in residence at Tufts University, is directing the play. She wants the post-performance sessions to translate into action.

"I really hope that people can lean in and ask bigger questions, and maybe it will help us create a little bit more empathy around this conversation and that will activate us to try and change the way we approach addiction," O'Leary says.

The discussions mark just one of the ways the play was adapted for this local run.

Another is "The Serenity Song." It was composed for this play by Boston attorney Patricia Saint James and sung by Renese King, who is at the Berklee School of Music. The song is now played at drug court graduation ceremonies in Massachusetts.

The play runs from Oct. 5-13.

This segment aired on October 4, 2019.

Deborah Becker Host/Reporter
Deborah Becker is a senior correspondent and host at WBUR. Her reporting focuses on mental health, criminal justice and education.



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