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The Bedwetter

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A hearty helping of vulgarity, a tablespoon of sentimentality and a pinch of tragedy have long been the perfect recipe for the award-winning writer and comedian Sarah Silverman, as anyone who has seen her stand-up specials or TV series will attest. But this combination proves to be just a little less delicious than usual in the new musical “The Bedwetter,” now premiering at the Atlantic Theater Company under Anne Kauffman’s direction.

Adapted by Silverman and noted playwright Joshua Harmon from Silverman’s 2010 memoir of the same name, with music and lyrics by the late Adam Schlesinger, “The Bedwetter” attempts to tackle a lot of emotional territory in two hours, while also trying (and often succeeding) in making the audience laugh so hard at times that they might literally pee their pants. As a result, the show’s frequent tonal shifts can cause a serious case of whiplash.

On the heels of the divorce of her less-than-functional parents, womanizing store owner Donald (a superb Darren Goldstein) and perennially depressed, celebrity-obsessed mom Beth Ann (an excellent if under-utilized Caissie Levy), 10-year-old Sarah (Zoe Glick) is having trouble adjusting to her new school in New Hampshire.

It's not surprising: Her teacher Mrs. Dembo (the hilarious Ellyn Marie Marsh) doesn’t appreciate Sarah’s foul-mouthed attempts at humor, which include truly off-color jokes she learned from her father and her ability to do celebrity fart impressions; her classmates (embodied by Charlotte Elizabeth Curtis, Charlotte MacLeod and Margot Weintraub) are initially put off by Sarah’s “Jewiness”; and her beautiful older sister Laura (a winning Emily Zimmerman) tries her best to distance herself in school from her offbeat younger sibling.

And then there’s the problem that gives the show its title, and which is a constant source of shame for Sarah. She manages to keep it (mostly) hidden, until her well-meaning Nana (a wry Bebe Neuwith) accidentally spills the beans in front of her friends – an event which causes Sarah to take a serious downward spiral.

Ultimately, when the “solution” does arrive, it’s not thanks to two quacky doctors (both played quite amusingly by Rick Crom), but from the very beautiful (and surprisingly foul-mouthed) Miss New Hampshire (a vocally and physically stunning Ashley Blanchet).

It might have helped if the show’s creators had left out a couple of true-life details, which includes one of the main reasons for Donald and Beth Ann’s divorce (and which is also the reason Nana drinks so much); it’s simply too heavy a piece of baggage for this show to lift.

Moreover, even if you have no issue with the streams of profanity that emanate from the grown-up Silverman’s mouth, they don’t fit as comfortably coming from the lips of Glick, who attacks the role with hurricane force, but lacks some of the adult charm Silverman now possesses.

Meanwhile, while the show’s score (which was finished after Schlesinger’s untimely death from Covid in 2020 by Tony Award winner David Yazbek) is both tuneful and honest, you’ll probably never hear any of these songs out of context. True, some daring performer might take on Donald’s raunchy “In My Line of Work,” and someone else might choose to tackle Beth Ann’s haunting “You Can’t Fix Her,” but most of the musical material – such as “Xanax” and the title song – are very firmly rooted to the script.

Still, if you didn’t know Silverman’s life story before, you will leave “The Bedwetter” with newfound respect for this remarkable woman. And either way, you’ll leave knowing (perhaps once again) how hard it is to write a truly great musical.

By Brian Scott Lipton

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Open/Close Dates
Opening 4/30/2022
Closing 7/10/2022

Theatre Info
Linda Gross Theater
336 West 20th St
Neighborhood: Chelsea
New York, NY 10011