A Gatorade with vodka for breakfast, Diet Coke with vodka mid-morning and vodka martinis at lunch are bare necessities for Steven to get through the day. As a successful playwright and director, the pressure to be perfect is real  — plus a dysfunctional relationship with his mother doesn’t help. However, when Steven’s addiction tears apart his marriage, career and family, he must look for a higher power to keep him from total destruction. Through February 19, Dad’s Garage and Theatrical Outfit co-present The White Chip by Sean Daniels in the Dad’s Garage theater space. 

The play, which premiered in 2016 at Merrimack Repertory Theatre in Lowell, Massachusetts, where Daniels was artistic director at the time, is based on Daniels’ real tussles with alcoholism and self-acceptance. Growing up in a restrictive Mormon household in Florida, Daniels struggled to find meaningful connections at home and in the church. Then, when he went to college at Florida State University, drunken fraternity parties opened up the door to what would become a years-long fight to get from under rock bottom. 

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Daniels infuses sketch-comedy techniques into the script of “The White Chip,” with actors breaking the fourth wall, playing multiple parts and using a variety of props to tell the story.

In The White Chip, Daniels uses the wry humor he developed as a founding member of Dad’s Garage back in 1995 to replay some of the most humiliating and enlightening moments on his road to recovery. He infuses sketch-comedy techniques into the script, with actors breaking the fourth wall, playing multiple parts and using a variety of props to tell the story. However, the script’s strength is not only in its humor, but also in the ways it examines the culture of drinking in the arts — champagne fundraisers, cocktails on opening night and drinks after set strike come with a cost. Daniels also shows how society withholds compassion from people who are dealing with addiction and the romanticism of drunken geniuses, such as Tennessee Williams and Eugene O’Neill.

Andrew Benator plays Steven, making this his Dad’s Garage debut. Benator is a familiar face at Theatrical Outfit, and The White Chip marks his return since the Covid pandemic led to the unfortunate early closing of Paula Vogel’s Indecent. Benator is a craftsman at work in this role, finding every layer and level to explore in the character. There’s nothing more irresistible than watching a train wreck, and Benator keeps the tension high and the humor wide as his character retells stories of drunken meetings with board members and judging a children’s arts contest after being arrested for a DUI. Everything’s OK as long as the reviews are good, right?

Gina Rickicki portrays Steven’s mom, wife, girlfriend and best friend, among other roles. As Steven’s mother, she grips a mug that sometimes has coffee and other times vodka. As his wife, she goes from an immature party girl to a woman who realizes the stakes of her life. Rickicki is the rare actress who understands sketch comedy and drama with equal deftness and she provides many of the laughs in the play.

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Former Theatrical Outfit artistic director Tom Key, right, portrays a board member at the theater, an airport bartender, Steven’s father and his sober coach.

Former Theatrical Outfit artistic director Tom Key portrays a board member at the theater, an airport bartender, Steven’s father and his sober coach. As Steven’s father —  who has a harrowing battle with Parkinson’s — Key is in his groove, always opting for a gentle hand. However, the role of the sober coach, Brick, turns him into a straight-shooting U.S. Marine Corps veteran with a chip on his shoulder. The contrast is fun to watch. 

If this production leaves anything to be desired, it is the set design. Theatrical Outfit typically has beautifully detailed sets, and even in the 2019 scripted show Ad Nauseum at Dad’s Garage, the set remarkably resembled a mid-century advertising agency. However, this set is more functional than formal. It is meant to look like a room for an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. A green chalkboard anchors the space, and the actors slap magnets on it to indicate change of location. Shelf boxes and even the trash can serve as props storage, which works for the production, but the seams show quite a bit in the set construction. 

The messy set may very well be a metaphor for Steven’s road to recovery. In real life, Daniels has recently joined the staff at Florida Studio Theatre as associate artistic director and director of The Recovery Project. However, watching the play, it’s hard not to think of those who aren’t so fortunate and don’t have the resources for rehab. Addiction is a disease impacting millions of people across the country, and, in The White Chip, Daniels shows that even when it seems all has been lost, every day is a chance at a new and better life. 


Kelundra Smith, an ArtsATL Editor-at-Large, is a critic and arts journalist whose mission is to connect people to cultural experiences and each other. Her work appears in The New York Times, ESPN’s AndscapeAmerican Theatre and elsewhere. She is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. 

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