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ATF’s ‘Boy in Bathroom’ is quirky & sweet

By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor

“Knock, Knock,” she says — but it’s anyone’s guess whether he’ll ever open.

The Adirondack Theatre Festival invited this observer to sit in for a sneak look at rehearsal for its new musical, The Boy in the Bathroom.

The show was to have opened yesterday, July 26. With our weekly Chronicle schedule, we’ll not get to publish anything about the finished production until the run is nearly over, on August 4.

Boy in the Bathroom is a domestic musical — in that, it is very much like last year’s heart-felt hit Home, as ATF director Chad Rabinovitz previously promised. Mr. Rabinovitz also directs this show himself.

The set up is a little absurd: Young college dropout living in the bathroom to combat his Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Even the opening song to establish where he’s at — it rings obvious, even unnatural. But not desperately so.

And, good theater or art doesn’t typically come from boring circumstances.

In this extreme, there is room to learn something about being a person, about the quirks of mental health, about the reaches of love and how it can lock you in, twist you up, and set you free. All three characters experience that in their ways.

Cut to the chase of my own take-away from this show: I found myself forgetting there were even songs happening. As I became more invested in the characters themselves.

Then, along comes a song, “Almost Normal,” I believe it was. It is the most organically arisen song I think I’ve ever heard in a musical.

That’s what it’s supposed to be, right? In the best of musicals, the songs rise up when dialogue can no longer express the emotion or move the story forward. Here, the cast members were pulling purely from emotion, and singing as naturally as breath, what dialogue could not express.

Alex Wyse in The Boy in the Bathroom, now on stage at the Adirondack Theatre Festival.

There are quirks and humor — David, played by notable television and Broadway actor Alex Wyse — lives with his mother, who helps him survive by sending supplies, flat or flattened, through the space between the bottom of the bathroom door and the floor. Pancakes, he can eat, then. Beef Jerky. Pop Tarts. A roll of toilet paper is ingeniously unrolled from one side of the door onto the emptied cardboard tube on the other.

It’s a situation maybe his mother finds a little too cozy, for her own reasons. That is her uncomfortable truth — or one of them.

She falls, breaks her hip, and hires a young woman to help around the house.

Julie is hilarious, cagey, and rough around the edges — even in her singing voice, which carries a distinctive raw quality around its outer boundaries.

Mr. Wyse is a study in sweetness and trouble, from the skin out.

Catherine Shaffner, the mother, has a nice Midwestern twang and an easy comfort in her movements, words and song.

Julie and David tell knock-knock jokes through the door, play games on matching boards, toy at their own sort of truth or dare. Julie has troubles too.

This musical allows each of them to find ways they may unlock the others.

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