Marblehead playwright Anne Lucas sits at home reflecting on her drama “Recovery,” set in a rehab center for addicts.
It casts seven female characters — three girls, their moms and a reverend who is recovering from alcohol addiction.
The lone male is Damien, a demon — a convincing character who personifies temptation, forever promising users bliss from opioids, alcohol or whatever their addiction may be.
Much of the play’s action is grounded in reality, experiences that Lucas encountered in her life-or-death battle helping her oldest daughter, Elizabeth Cohen, recover from opioid addiction.
Lucas forces herself to talk about these battles. She recounts them here, in her living room, as she did in public in April at a speaker series at Marblehead’s Abbot Public Library.
Silence, and its negative effect on healing, is a recurring theme in works by Lucas. They include “Say the Name,” an adaptation of a book by Holocaust survivor Judith Sherman, and “From Silence,” a play about what it was like for a daughter to grow up with a mother who was a Holocaust survivor and would not talk about it.
“Recovery” also draws on Lucas’ own journey, recovering from the collateral damage she suffered during her daughter’s drug-centered years — the sleepless nights and stress-filled days.
The play opened last fall in New York City at the Theater for the New City, the reverend played by Karen Lynn Gorney, who in 1977 co-starred opposite John Travolta in the movie “Saturday Night Fever.”
Marblehead Little Theatre will stage “Recovery” this fall. And next year, it is slated for a production in Greece, in translation.
Staging an intervention
On this cool, gray spring afternoon, Lucas is in her warm living room surrounded by family photos and museum-quality crystal and amethyst displays.
She sits in an antique chair that once belonged to her great-grandmother Mary Alice King — an Irish girl who landed in Ohio, went to work as an upstairs maid, married well and lived to 98.
Gauzy curtains hang in Lucas’ front-room windows. An Oriental carpet covers the hardwood floor.
At Lucas’ feet is Maddie, a floppy-eared King Charles cavalier spaniel with the world’s saddest, most droopy eyes. She lies on her side, investing her leisure with dedicated languor.
The rescue dog stirs only briefly over two hours, deigning to shift her head and rest it more comfortably on her white paws.
Her only other movement comes from her white, feather-duster tail. Call out to her, “Hey, Maddie,” and, unfailingly, she’ll wag it.
The late afternoon’s domestic calm contrasts starkly with the subject matter inherent in “Recovery.”
The play includes an incident much like one Lucas survived more than a decade ago.
She was in Salem searching for her daughter when she saw her at the wheel of a car. Lucas stood in its path to get her daughter to stop her drug-fueled quest for the next high.
The situation had gotten so dire that she was willing to put her life between her daughter and the next high.
“I would have stood there and let her hit me,” Lucas said.
Her daughter recognized her mom in front of her and swerved, jumping the curb.
Lucas’ reason for writing “Recovery” was to help people caught in the addiction spiral, a death spiral, really.
“There are people today, right now, who are living what I lived, and I am trying to reach out to them with this play,” Lucas said. “This tells them there is a road to recovery, their recovery, the kids’ recovery. They have a disease that needs intervention.”
Lucas earned a master’s degree in playwriting from Lesley University in Cambridge and wrote the drama expressly to help others combat the national scourge of addiction that has hit Massachusetts harder than most states.
In 2017, 70,200 Americans died of overdoses, twice as many as those who died a decade before. Massachusetts has one of the highest death rates from overdoses, 1,913 in 2017, with 28 deaths per 100,000 people, which is almost twice the national rate.
A platform to help others
Drama was a natural place for Lucas to turn when she was seeking a way to fight the opioid epidemic and other addictions.
Lucas is a lifelong actress who has studied elocution. She’s energetic and humorous.
Her first roles were in early grade school in Cleveland, Ohio — the very first a production of “The Wizard of Oz.”
She went on in high school to play Annie Oakley in the musical “Annie Get Your Gun” (a natural for her, as a tomboy) as well as appear in productions of Shakespeare and other classics.
Her mother was a high school chemistry teacher who mentored girls in science, and her dad an executive for Caterpillar heavy machinery company.
Education would be a mainstay for Lucas. She graduated from Baldwin Wallace University in Ohio and studied acting in London, England.
She has multiple degrees, including a master’s in directing. While studying for her master’s degree at Boston University, she once directed Geena Davis, the Hollywood star then an undergraduate at BU.
Lucas has taught acting at the high school level, at Newton South, and later at the college level, at the then-Salem State College.
In between the high school and college teaching jobs, she spent 10 years in New York City scratching out a living acting in soap operas, including “Days of Our Lives” and “All My Children,” and doing commercials and singing.
She and her sister, also an actress, lived frugally, sharing apartments with other actresses.
Tragically, her sister would die young, at age 37, in 1990 from complications due to the flu after having given birth two months earlier.
Lucas met her now ex-husband, Stewart Cohen, while she was in New York City. They married in 1983 and adopted Elizabeth in 1988. A year later, they moved to Marblehead, and Lucas gave birth to daughter Caroline in September 1990.
These days, Elizabeth is a new mother herself, having giving birth to daughter Mia in June.
Elizabeth now has 91/2 years of sobriety behind her. She has been working in car sales and just graduated from college with a degree in counseling. She will help people with addictions.
Betty Lautner, the producer who is staging “Recovery” at Marblehead Little Theatre this fall, invited Lucas to speak in April at the 3 Voices speaker series, hosted by the Abbot Public Library in Marblehead.
The series endeavors to strengthen women by presenting female speakers with vital stories to tell.
Joining Lucas for the 3 Voices talk was Ariele Goldman, 30, from Lynn. She’s in recovery and has been drug- and alcohol-free for 21/2 years. She’s getting a college degree.
Goldman said at the talk that it was painful to hear Lucas’ story knowing her own mom endured the same suffering. She believes Lucas’ play can reach addicts in a way that mere information cannot.
Through drama, people can see and hear themselves, invoking recognition and self awareness, she said.
Also at the talk were representatives of the City of Lynn Prevention Works program and a regional representative for the 12-step rehab center Caron.
Lucas told the audience that when her daughter went to her fourth rehab center, the counselors insisted that Lucas attend Al-Anon meetings, established to help family members and friends of alcoholics.
Lucas took inspiration from the happy people she met at the Al-Anon meetings. It gave her hope. She still attends meetings twice a week.
“AA and Al-Anon will give you a community that will be there 24/7,” Lucas shared with the crowd. “It saved my family’s life.”
She said it could do the same for others.
She wants to be the person who helps those who are suffering, and she wants “Recovery” to be a play that does the same.
Want to take part?
“Recovery” will be staged from Oct. 5-13 at Marblehead Little Theatre, and auditions are set for this Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m. and Monday from 6 to 9 p.m.
Interested actors can sign up for a time slot at www.theaterforms.com/mlt/recovery/auditionform and should prepare a one- to two-minute contemporary monologue.
Roles are available for women ranging in age from 20-65 and for one man approximately 35-50.
For more information, visit www.mltlive.com.