Sunday, June 26, 2022

The Bedwetter (Atlantic Theater Company)

By Harry Forbes

This is a quirky but entertaining musical adapted from Sarah Silverman’s memoir about her 10-year-old self (played with winning pluck by Zoe Glick), circa 1980, as she struggles to make friends at school in a new town (Bedford, NH) after her parents’ divorce. 

There, she shuttles between her neurotically bedridden but caring mother Beth Ann (a moving Caissie Levy) and older sister Laura (Emily Zimmerman), and her boorish and loving father Donald (Darren Goldstein) who runs a discount clothing store and makes hucksterish TV commercials for the store. He lives with his aging and cheerfully alcoholic mother Nana (sharp character portrayal by Bebe Neuwirth). 

Sarah has difficulty adjusting to school, and her perennially exasperated teacher Mrs Dembo (amusing Ellyn Marie Marsh) while her bratty classmates Ally (Charlotte Elizabeth Curtis), Abby (Charlotte MacLeod), and Amy (Margot Weinstraub) alternately disdain and embrace her, intrigued, despite themselves, by Sarah’s wacky sense of humor. (Celebrity fart impressions are Sarah’s specialty.)

Sarah’s big secret, as the title reveals, is that she still wets her bed, a malady that -- once revealed to her friends, much to Sarah’s intense mortification -- spurs her father to take the girl to first a hypnotist and then a medical doctor (both played by versatile Rick Crom who also shows up later as a plausible Johnny Carson).

Ashley Blanchet makes several bright appearances as a fantasized Miss New Hampshire. 

The cast is strong and everyone gets their moment to shine both vocally and dramatically. Glick makes Sarah as precociously annoying as the script dictates, though frankly, her high pitched vocals sometimes grate (even understanding the stridency is intentional), but as the show progresses, she becomes more endearing.

Though the overall tone of the show is lightweight, and the score, on first hearing, strikes me as mostly pleasantly serviceable, the second act takes a decidedly darker turn, as Sarah deals with depression, family recriminations, and more.

Silverman adapted her book with playwright Joshua Harmon (whose “Prayer for the French Republic” was such a bright spot earlier this year) and co-wrote the lyrics with composer Adam Schlesinger who tragically died of Covid-19. Composer David Yazbek, who knows a thing or two about musicals, served as creative consultant. 

Anne Kauffman directs with empathy for the material, and there’s some cute choreography, including a chorus line of dancing giant Xanax pills, by Bryon Easley.

(Linda Gross Theater, 336 West 20th Street; or 646-989-7996; through July 10)

Note that Jessica Vosk takes over the role of Beth Ann and Elizabeth Ward

Land plays Nana for performances from July 5-10.

Photo by Ahron R. Foster: (l-r) Bebe Neuwirth (Nana) and Zoe Glick (Sarah)

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