A Promise To Repair is is a dark comedy that explores the slippery slope between altruism and self-interest, as well as cultural identity and spiritual connection.
Lyon Walkove, a Jewish, middle-aged, newly recovering alcoholic, is in a Jewish-based program called Tikiat Tikkun (which translates as a promise to repair). His sponsor or shomer (which means keeper, as in “Am I my brother’s keeper?”) is Paul Morris. Having learned that Lyon never had a bar mitzvah, Paul advises him to study with a rabbi to help facilitate his sobriety and recommends Rabbi Shelley Steinmetz. But he tells Lyon not to mention his name, as the program values anonymity.
When Shelley finds out that Lyon is in Tikiat Tikkun, she refuses to take him on as a student. Lyon is mystified, but Paul brushes it off and encourages Lyon to try again. Lyon does and this time Shelley agrees to take him on a lesson-by-lesson basis.
Paul’s fiancée, Frances Crean, is a Catholic who is converting to Judaism. She has passed the questioning of the Beit Din (a Jewish court made up of three rabbis) and now only has to go through the tevillah, a ritual immersion in the mikvah (a bath or pool) to officially become a Jew. She made her decision to convert before meeting Paul and he has always been supportive. But Frances is feeling nervous about the tevillah and Paul tells her she does not have to do it. She suspects that he is not as supportive as he once was.
Lyon comes to Paul’s apartment one evening when he is not home. He tells Frances that Paul was not in zitsung, (the meeting for Tikiat Tikkun members). Lyon is tense and distraught and Frances tries to calm him down. She makes coffee and discovers Lyon sniffing a whiskey flask. He swears he has not relapsed, but carries the flask as a way to control temptation. Frances is sympathetic and she and Lyon share an embrace that lasts a little too long. Lyon is apologetic, but it s clear there is a mutual attraction.
Paul did not go to zitsung because he is at Shelley’s apartment. They knew each other four years earlier, when Shelley was his shomer in Tikiat Tikkun. That relationship became intimate, leading them both to relapse and Shelley to leave the program and go to Israel. In the following years she became a rabbi. Paul has never forgotten her, but she wants nothing to do with him. He has forsaken his shomer’s vow to help Lyon and instead used him as a way to connect with Shelley once again. Paul is having doubts about his feelings for Frances. Shelley wants him to leave, but then they share a kiss.
At a Passover seder, Lyon uses his flask as a way to instigate matters and all the secrets come out. The evening culminates in Frances and Paul breaking up and Shelley taking a drink. Lyon and Frances then move in together. Angry about being used, Lyon has told the board of Tikiat Tikkun what Paul did and he (Paul) is kicked out of the program. Paul discovers that Shelley has relapsed hard. She has given up her students and spends all her time in her home office drinking. Paul makes a feeble attempt to intervene and she tries to induce him to drink with her. Paul tries to enlist the help of Lyon and Frances to have an intervention for Shelley, but they will not help him and Paul and Lyon come to blows.
After Frances goes to Shelley for spiritual guidance – realizing some hard truths about her conversion – and Lyon and Paul suffer their own relapses, the four of them face the realities of having to start back at square one.
I began writing this play as a one-act in 2010. I wrote two drafts, the original titled God’s Kool-Aid which was later changed to The Hair Of The Dog.
I took a scene of the second draft to a week-long playwriting workshop given by acclaimed Canadian playwright Daniel MacIvor at the Great Blue Heron Writing Workshop in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. At the end of the week I decided that the only way explore the themes more deeply was to expand the one-act into a full-length script.
In 2011 I wrote the first draft of the full-length version, which I called A Promise To Repair and submitted it to the Cape Breton Stage Company. They agreed to produce the script.
Being a member of Playwrights Atlantic Resource Centre, I submitted this first draft to their Home Delivery service, where they found me a dramaturge (Trevor Rueger, executive director of Alberta Playwrights Network), who sent me two pages of notes (as well as encouragement since he liked the script). Scott Sharplin of the Cape Breton Stage Company, at my request, also conducted lengthy dramaturgical sessions with me via Skype. I found both Trevor’s and Scott’s input valuable enough to produce a second draft within a few months.
In June 2012, The Cape Breton Stage Company staged three workshop performances of the play, which I attended. Since those performances, I have revised the script into a third draft.