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Boys Next Door at Act1 Theater
a Drama

ID# 5218

SHOWING : March 02, 2018 - March 18, 2018



The place is a communal residence in a New England city, where four mentally handicapped men live under the supervision of an earnest, but increasingly "burned out" young social worker named Jack. Norman, who works in a doughnut shop and is unable to resist the lure of the sweet pastries, takes great pride in the huge bundle of keys that dangles from his waist; Lucien P. Smith has the mind of a five-year-old but imagines that he is able to read and comprehend the weighty books he lugs about; Arnold, the ringleader of the group, is a hyperactive, compulsive chatterer, who suffers from deep-seated insecurities and a persecution complex; while Barry, a brilliant schizophrenic who is devastated by the unfeeling rejection of his brutal father, fantasizes that he is a golf pro. Mingled with scenes from the daily lives of these four, where "little things" sometimes become momentous (and often very funny), are moments of great poignancy when, with touching effectiveness, we are reminded that the handicapped, like the rest of us, want only to love and laugh and find some meaning and purpose in the brief time that they, like their more fortunate brothers, are allotted on this earth.

Director Jim Dailey
Set Designer Bob Cookson
Light/Sound Designer Murray Mann
Stage Manager Benjamin Roper
Choreographer Lauren Rosenzweig
Mr. Klemper Brian Bascle
Mr. Hedges/Senator Clarke Joe Baxter
Norman Jeremy Choate
Barry Loren Collins
Jack Adam Roderick Darby
Mrs. Fremus/Mrs. Warren Shannon Kraiger
Sheila Carla Selden
Arnold James Thomas
Lucien P. Smith Chris Voss
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Group Home
by playgoer
Monday, March 19, 2018
Tom Griffin’s "The Boys Next Door" concerns a group of four men with mental challenges who share a group home under the supervision of Jack Palmer (played by Adam Darby). Norman Bulanski (Jeremy Choate) works at a donut shop; Arnold (James Thompson) has odd obsessions; Lucien (Chris Voss) has the intellect of a child; Barry (Loren Collins) thinks he’s a golf professional. The play doesn’t have much of a through-story; particularly in the first act we’re presented with a series of humorous situations that invite the audience to laugh at the foibles of the men. It can be a bit uncomfortable to hear audience members laugh at behavior over which the characters have no control.

In the second act, the tone turns more serious. A few threads culminate in dramatic fashion, and we see more of the romance between Norman and his equally challenged and quirky girlfriend, Sheila (Carla Seldon). The second act also introduces us to Barry’s abusive father, Mr. Klemper (Brian Bascle). Smaller roles are played by Joe Baxter and Shannon Kraiger. All give fine performances, under the direction of Jim Dailey.

Bob Cookson’s set design covers the entire main stage with the interior of the group home. Stage left we have a small kitchen with island and a hallway to other rooms; upstage we have the bathroom door; stage right we have a similar door that leads from the apartment. There’s a chair and sofa and a single painting on the wall. It’s a very workable set, but a bit overwhelming. Several scenes take place in other locations, most of which are based on stage extensions left and right, but Murray Mann’s lighting usually bleeds onto the apartment set and doesn’t always match the playing area of the scene.

Costumes, by Suzanne Thornett and Anne Voller, don’t get much of a workout, but work well, featuring custom embroidery by Jessica Wardrup. Props by Melody Cookson and Emily Voller are fine, if a little light on the Wheaties, and Murray Mann’s sound design does what it needs to.

Mr. Dailey’s direction is best in his assistance in getting each of the actors to create a distinct, consistent character. This direction results in a production in which the relationships among the characters reinforce these characterizations. By the end of the evening, the audience feels they have truly come to know these four special men and their burned-out supervisor. With sterling performances all around, "The Boys Next Door" succeeds in creating a satisfying theatrical experience. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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