There’s a Boy in the Girl’s Bathroom, Griffin Theatre Company. Bullies persecute nonconformists until they turn into the antisocial monsters they’re assumed to be. Volatile alliances make for a universe steeped in agonizing existential uncertainty, and the elders who should be providing guidance neglect their responsibilities. How did we ever live through the fourth grade?

Fortunately, the children of Red Hill Academy have Carla, the wise and sensitive counselor who ministers to the rebellious, the shy, and the anxious with assurances that their sins–even the seemingly unforgivable gaffe of walking into the wrong latrine–need not mark them for life. Even when the kids’ parents declare Carla unnecessary and banish her, she leaves behind a legacy of independence, confidence, and self-esteem that her charges will carry with them forever.

In schools without a Carla, well-worn copies of Louis Sachar’s book bear testimony to the accuracy of his insights. And in adapting this award-winning story for the stage, William Massolia keeps the tone light without ever trivializing the importance of Sachar’s instruction. The cast likewise avoid caricature–not easy when playing on the set of Shakespeare’s Dog, Griffin’s main-stage production–committing wholeheartedly to their characters. Young playgoers journeying through puberty who need a comforting word (and what adolescent doesn’t?) will find it in this show.

–Mary Shen Barnidge