Michael Lluberes (Book and Lyrics, Director) and John Maloney's (Music and Additional Lyrics) The Boy in the Bathroom is the 100th production for the New York Musical Theatre Festival, and their contribution to a radical form of toilet humor. Scenic designer Seth Easter creates a welcome first stop in the morning, from the spic and span white tub and sink to the faux wall tiles in the form of a drop-down background. From the tub emerges David (a wonderfully puerile and pathetic Michael Zahler), the 24-year old man with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder who has turned his bathroom into living quarters. We don't exactly know what sends David skulking or screaming into the bathroom, but we do know that his coddling mother Pam (larger-than-life persona Mary Stout) isn't doing much to coax him out.
Nothing and no one can draw David out of the bathroom. He reads, theorizes, eats and sleeps in there, and not even his mom's frantic cries for help when she injures herself can make him leave his comfort zone. David sings us through the rituals of eating his mother's flat food and working on his senior thesis until his warped routine is interrupted by Julie (beautiful crooner and giddy Ana Nogueira), the home attendant hired to assist with Pam's needs while she recovers from her accident. No sooner does Julie, a fanciful girl saving up for a car to get out of town, assume extra housekeeping duties for Pam does she start to inquire and interact with the mysterious, faceless boy that lives in the bathroom. Julie quickly zeroes in on David's fears of contaminating and being contaminated by the world, and urges him to wonder and be free outside of his self-appointed boundaries. Hours of games and sharing secrets forges a pseudo-romance between them that requires David to make a choice: stay within his problem-free womb or fall into the arms of his new love.
Under Lluberes' strong direction, the actors all shine in their roles, but some of their choices are questionable. As David, Zahler washes his hands and shaves, but the lack of plumbing indicates that these are exercises in futility. A bubble machine creates a playground for childhood memories and innocence, but the noise of its operation competes too strongly with David's voice. The credibility of Prop Designer Stephanie Tucci's bathroom “door” (an outline rather than a solid door) is constantly violated by the actors because they inadvertently poke their hands through the invisible barrier. The use of an outline, however, helps to illustrate that David is free to come and go as he chooses, and there really are no solid limitations. The door itself, said to be half an inch from the floor in song, is clearly much higher than that upon inspection. Pam, a despondent mother agonizing over the past, occasionally sings songs with a fervor that is too dark, too serious, and too sad for the generally mild tone of this musical.
With “home-made” toilet paper rolls and beverages sucked from a straw under the door, it is clear that a lot of thought went into creating an existence within a bathroom and all of its dysfunctional connotations. Despite the prop and performance issues, The Boy in the Bathroom is an amusing romp into both fantasy and reality.
Through September 29th. Tickets: $20. Order Tickets By Phone:212-352-3101
866-811-4111 (toll free), 45th Street Theatre 354 West 45th Street
New York, NY 10036