The brand new musical “The Bedwetter,” based mostly on comedian Sarah Silverman’s memoir, is just not as tight as a fitted sheet.
Potential abounds within the tangled present, which opened Tuesday evening off-Broadway on the Atlantic Theater Firm, particularly in its central thought: that, to the mile-a-minute thoughts of a 10-year-old, waking up sporting moist pajamas can really feel as emotionally traumatic as an grownup coping with divorce or melancholy. Life already sucks, even at 10.
“The Bedwetter” makes use of little Sarah’s nighttime downside as an insightful window into the struggles of the eccentric grown-ups in her household.
2 hours, with one intermission. Atlantic Theater Firm, 336 W. twentieth St.
That good framework screams out for a daring and shifting musical. So why does it come off so slight and tentative?
Holding the present again essentially the most is an comprehensible flaw, contemplating the piece is a few well-known individual: There may be approach an excessive amount of Sarah in it.
At the beginning, the exuberant and proudly bizarre woman (Zoe Glick) exhibits up for her first day at a brand new faculty in Bedford, New Hampshire, and introduces her household in peppy music.
Her pop (Darren Goldstein, completely solid) owns Loopy Donny’s Manufacturing unit Outlet, a reduction ladies’s clothes retailer; her old-Hollywood-obsessed mother, Beth Ann (Caissie Levy), spends most of her days in mattress reeling from a tragedy; her teenage sister Laura (Emily Zimmerman) is just too ashamed to a lot as make eye contact with Sarah; and Nana (Bebe Neuwirth, miscast) is an acerbic alcoholic who has her granddaughter whip up Manhattans. Sarah grins and bears it, says “f–ok” so much and makes fart noises.
Comparisons to “Enjoyable Dwelling,” one other autobiographical musical about equally aged child with an uncommon household dynamic, are unavoidable. Nevertheless, whereas that present went deep into the stormy lives of Alison Bechdel’s mother and father, “Bedwetter” is generally a lightweight, young-adult-style story about Sarah. We don’t delve into her household almost sufficient, and once we do, it’s informal and fleeting.
The humor additionally isn’t so sidesplitting as to make up for giving different characters the chilly shoulder.
Within the musical’s ebook, by Silverman and Joshua Harmon, nothing is as hilarious as her stand-up or the fabulous “Sarah Silverman Program.” And the jingle-like tunes by Adam Schlesinger, the “Loopy Ex-Girlfriend” songwriter who sadly died of COVID in 2020, don’t get laughs like “I’m F–king Matt Damon” from “Jimmy Kimmel Stay” or “No one’s Excellent” from Silverman’s music-heavy particular “Jesus Is Magic.”
Many of the humorous is front-loaded into Act 1 (the booze gags are grating). Then within the second half, after Sarah’s associates (Charlotte MacLeod, Charlotte Elizabeth Curtis and Margot Weintraub) uncover her bedwetting secret and a careless physician prescribes Xanax for her outbursts, she turns into a shell of herself. A ghost. Noticing her grief, Nana and Beth Ann elaborate on the tough roads they’ve additionally walked. Lastly the present begins to be about one thing — nevertheless it’s too late.
Steeper hills to climb than the script are Anne Kauffman’s clueless course and Laura Jellinek’s threadbare designs. The Silverman home, Nana’s abode, the college and a hospital room are all similar save for a mattress right here and a desk there. Bland partitions rotate to disclose blander partitions with a single unhappy shelf holding a couple of trophies or a TV set. For the theater that has housed Finest Musical Tony winners like “Spring Awakening” and “The Band’s Go to,” plus the upcoming “Kimberly Akimbo” on Broadway, this set is surprisingly dowdy and devoid of character.
Kauffman, a professional at ushering new performs to the stage, lacks musical theater chops. The numbers (choreography is by Byron Easley) really feel as in the event that they have been improvised on the final minute. And when characters communicate, they’re usually propped in opposition to a wall on the facet of the stage, half seen, not touchdown jokes as a result of the jokes haven’t been visually arrange or correctly paced.
Probably the most poignant and attention-grabbing scenes belong to Levy, partially due to her open-hearted portrayal of an individual experiencing immense ache, but in addition as a result of the mattress she sits in is heart stage. We are able to totally see her.
There are three very good comedian performances: Goldstein bopping his head throughout a tacky ’80s business for Loopy Donny’s is a scream; Rick Crom performs some wacko docs and does a spot-on Johnny Carson; and Ashley Blanchet is campy because the fantastical Miss New Hampshire.
However they’re all stymied by a manufacturing that’s barely half-finished. The uncared for “Bedwetter” wants some Pampers. Er, sorry — pampering.