Friday, September 21, 2007

The Boy In The Bathroom

This new, affecting three-person chamber musical (at NYMF) centers on an obsessive-compulsive disordered "boy" (played by Michael Zahler) who's locked himself in the bathroom for over a year. He won't come out of his safe, tiled womb even when his Mom (Mary Stout) breaks her hip in a fall, nor when Mom's hired helper (Ana Nogueira) flirts with him from the other side of the bathroom door. While the situation is ocassionally tickled for a laugh or two, for the most part the young man's problem is treated with seriousness and rendered with credible detail: one of the first songs lists the flat foods that Mom has learned will pass through the crack under the door to the bathroom. The musical score is purposefully restrained, sometimes deliberately atonal and has integrity: the musical is appropriately less like a show with musical numbers and more like one with dramatic musical passages. Some clunky lyrics here and there are forgiven, as the score is effective and accomplished: one piece in particular, in which each of the three characters introspects about the want for fresh air, best demonstrates the lyricism that this story gains through musicalization. The underlying causes of the young man's phobias are only lightly touched on, which is as it should be, allowing the boy's isolation to have a more universal resonance. All three characters are well-defined and exceedingly well portrayed: Stout is formidable as always, and squeezes all the dramatic juice out of an eleventh-hour musical monologue that makes plain her character's compulsions; Nogueira very clearly and very winningly articulates her character's relationship with the boy, which begins with curiousity and a little hostility but eventually grows into something deeper. But the show finally belongs to Zahler, who projects both an intense vulnerability and a strong willfullness as the fear-driven boy of the title. He's touching without being cloying. As is the show.

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