Review: ‘Intervention’ is an informed, intimate story about addiction

Hal Cohen’s “Intervention” is a study of dualities — of humor and tragedy, love and rejection, sobriety and addiction. The play begins in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park some time in the present day, as two young people meet, flirt and begin to do gentle battle as a way to spark a relationship.

Dennis (Thomas Ian Campbell) is a student — an aspiring one when it comes to college, but a student of life for sure — brimming with trivia about popular culture in what seems to him the too-distant past (the ’70s to the ’90s). Sam (Aileen Andrews) is the youngest of three sisters, an adult eager to slide out from her older siblings’ shadows, but ultimately too vulnerable to relinquish their care.

It’s a promising start, though the play quickly reveals everyone’s imperfections, including the substance abuse that has plagued the sisters’ family. Cohen is a physician, and his understanding of the health effects of substances from sugar to alcohol and drugs informs his work. He’s unafraid to reveal how the medical community has contributed to our present opiate abuse crisis, which has ruined lives, broken families and led to so many deaths.

As with his play “Leonora Rabinowitz, I Love You,” that knowledge lends this play authority and heft, and it never devolves to exposition or didactic preaching. Rather, the lessons come from the dialogue and the story. “I don’t remember it as Mom getting drunk,” Sam tells her sisters (Sarah Barlow as the eager-to-control eldest, Mel, and Anna Gravel as peace-making middle child, Terry) as they discuss their mother at her funeral. “I remember it as Mom getting sick.”

Despite its heavy themes, “Intervention” is funny, too, and the tight weaving of humor and drama recalls the best sitcoms of an earlier era — the acting is that good. The Portland Ballet Studio Theater’s black box is an ideal venue for the production’s intimate story, and the minimalist approaches from set designer Steven…

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