The Boys Next Door at the Shawnee Theatre is a warm, funny insightful play about four mentally challenged men, their apartment, the lives they live, the challenges they face and their social worker.
Nate Curlott plays the nervous Arnold. Arnold tells the audience that he's not very good at self-assertion and comically proves it as he unloads nine boxes of Wheaties, six heads of lettuce and a bag of charcoal briquettes. Arnold was going for the 17 boxes of Wheaties that the store manager told him to buy, but they ran out of Wheaties. He works outside the group home as a movie theatre janitor.
Khyel Roberson who plays Lucien P. Smith shows up next proudly displaying his latest finds at the library. He's brought home five volumes of crop reports from the 1950s. Lucien can't read, can't even get past the A, B, Cs., but he loves the green library card with his name on it.
Coming home from his job at the donut shop is Justin Kozerow as Norman. Norman has a thing for donuts and his job is really doing a number on his waist line. On his belt he has a massive ring of keys. They don't open anything, but Norman is pretty attached to them.
Our fourth member of those boys next door is Adam Lewis as Barry Klemper. Barry doesn't really belong with the group. He's a schizophrenic who thinks he's golf pro, but he's been placed in the apartment after years of other kinds of institutionalization.
The social worker for the four is Jack Palmer played by Frank Delaney. Like Arnold, Jack talks directly to the audience, he tells us about the group home the task of harmonizing four very unique individuals. Jack is a good person, insightful about and respectful of his charges, but its wearing him down. He grows and changes but the boys with their repetitive acts and patterns just go in circles.
There's plenty of humor in The Boys Next Door and Thursday's opening night audience was often moved to laughter and even applause. There was laughter with the characters for many of the mishaps and misunderstandings and applause for the sudden moment of balletic grace of Norman with his girlfriend Sheila, played by Miki Byrne and for the wonderful bravery of Lucien as he testified on his own behalf before a government committee.
Final performances of The Boys Next Door directed by Magdalene Spanuello at the Shawnee Theatre are this evening at eight and Sunday afternoon at 2
You can find this review along with a review of Shawnee's production of The Wizard of Oz and a season preview with artistic director Magdalene Spanuello on our web site at WFIU dot ORG/ Arts
At the theatre for you, I'm George Walker