THE BOYS NEXT DOORby Tom Griffin
Directed by John S. Davies*
Produced by William R. Park
Set design by Brian MacDonald
Costume design by Kristin Moore
Arnold Wiggins - Thiago Martins
Lucien P. Smith - Leroy Foster
Barry Klemper - Kevin Michael Fuld
Jack - Gregory Lush
Norman Bulansky - Steven Shayle Rhodes
Sheils - Ashton McClearin
Mr. Klemper - John S. Davies
Mrs. Fremus/Mrs. Warren/Clara - Jane Willingham
Mr. Hedges/Mr. Corbin/Senator Clarke - David Bodenstedt
Reviewed Performance: 2/16/2012
Reviewed by Richard Blake, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The Boys Next Door was written in the early 1980's by Tom Griffin. Originally titled Damaged Hearts, Broken Flowers, the play was renamed and revised for a 1987 production at the Berkshire Theatre Festival. An Off-Broadway success, the play is filled with humor and also marked by the compassion and understanding with which it peers into the half-lit world of its handicapped protagonists. This very funny yet very touching play focuses on the lives of four mentally challenged men who live in a communal residence under the watchful eye of a sincere but increasingly despairing social worker, 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 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. 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.
I will start with all-around high praise for the entire cast, producer and director in the representation of the mentally challenged in this production. I was concerned as I waited for the show to start how these characters were going to be represented. My concerns were immediately dismissed within the first few minutes. This cast does an absolutely phenomenal job with these difficult representations and never, I repeat, never present them disrespectfully or in poor taste at any time throughout the production. Bravo to them all.
Direction by John S. Davies is very well done with nice scenic executions and movement. He uses the comfortable stage space very well and effectively directs his actors on it. The use of the extension on the stage as the wall between the actors and the audience is a very good choice. Mr. Davies also makes great choices when he vignettes smaller scenes in multiple locations. Scene changes, however, seem awkward without some sound choice of music or effect, which makes the audience hold their applause.
Brian MacDonald's set design is simple but concise. The main playing area, being the apartment the men share, is laid out well with nice details to the set dressing. The scenic painting isn't very exciting or unique but with the many other nicely placed details it doesn't harm the production quality.
The costume designs by Kristin Moore fit the production very well. Her choices are appropriate, well thought out and added a very unique addition to each character's special "needs". Without the excellent choices made by Ms. Moore, many of the characters little eccentricities would be lost or not understood throughout the production.
Thiago Martins as Arnold is nothing but amazing in this role. He captures your attention from his first moment on stage and never lets it go. His portrayal and character choices are perfect and never once seem forced or unnatural. Mr. Martins is an extraordinary talent in this production and propels it to wonderful heights.
Leroy Foster plays Lucien, an incredibly difficult character. There are moments on stage you are captivated by his portrayal, then laughing along with him. He has a stunningly poignant scene in front of the Senate Panel that makes you sit back in awe. Throughout the production Mr. Foster is nothing but professional in his approach and presentation.
Gregory Lush as Jack takes you through this story with ease and grace. His professionalism definitely shows in this production as there is not one moment you are not captivated by his characterizations, body language or dialogue. Mr. Lush is simply superb as Jack, and draws you into his character and story with such depth and determination, you begin to believe he actually feels what his character is feeling. Bravo Mr. Lush? Bravo!
Kevin Michael Fuld's role of Barry is done excellently. There are a lot of complicated emotions in Mr. Fuld's character and he allows each and every one to be felt with passion and grace. His acting choices are very good and interacts naturally with his fellow actors onstage.
Steven Shayle Rhodes' role as Norman will captivate, compel and make you laugh and cry. The role is demanding in many ways but Mr. Rhodes never lets you see that in his role. He is a wonderfully talented actor in this production and you will not forget him.
Sheila is played extraordinarily well by Ashton McClearin. Her every moment onstage is mesmerizing. The complex reactions, emotions and movements she offers are simply amazing. Ms. McClearin will touch your heart in this production in so many ways... you will definitely walk away remembering this talented actress!
The entire ensemble, as a whole, works together spectacularly, without flaw or misstep. This production is a success because of this ensemble's work under such wonderful direction. PFAMILY ARTS production of The Boys Next Door is one you definitely want to see with those close to you? it will be an evening you will not soon forget.
PFAMILY ARTS, 4017 Preston Road #544 (LakeSide Market)
Plano, TX 75093
Runs through February 25th
*PG-13 Parental Guidance Recommended for children under 13.
Contains some isolated strong language and isolated dramatic scene.
Thursdays 7:30 pm, Fridays 8:00 pm and Saturdays 2:30 & 8:00 pm
Ticket prices are $30 Adults, $20 students/seniors and $20/$10 ARC of Dallas, Down Syndrome Guild and Miracle League Members
Purchase tickets by calling the box office at 972-378-1234. More production information is available online at www.pfamilyarts.org