The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4, Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, at the Athenaeum Theatre. This diary doesn't stand up any better than Bridget Jones's to translation from page to performance. Both books depend on the narrator's voice, largely lost when action dominates. And Sue Townsend's tale of an adolescent adrift in Thatcher's England has dated badly--and travels worse. The script relies on in-jokes about England's decline, and the score on a music-hall tradition with little resonance for American audiences.
This overlong musical charts the consequences of Adrian's mother's decision to find herself by running away with the lout next door. Jane Baxter Miller stands out, comically ferocious as the lout's wife and marvelously loopy as Adrian's father's other woman. George Lugg (as Adrian's old-age pensioner friend) and Marssie Mencotti (in several roles) are delightful: their musical numbers have the right mix of sincerity and parody, and each is the perfect physical type. Michael Nowak does quite well as the lout, but as Adrian, Bryan Hart is neither wistful nor dry enough to carry off lines like "Here I am in my unbroken home," and his accent (like some others) is obviously a strain.
Director Cindy Gold handles each scene adequately but can't knit the episodes into a whole. Set designer Mark Reynolds does wonders with a few boxes, Kimberley Schuler's costumes are dead-on, and puppet designer David Sabel makes us love Adrian's dog, Dog, almost as much as the boy does.