Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Boys Next Door"

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entire contents copyright 2007 by Tony Annicone

"The Boys Next Door"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Attleboro Community Theatre's third show of their 50th season is Tom Griffin's "The Boys Next Door", a funny and touching play about four handicapped men living in a communal residence under the watchful eye of a caring but burnt out social worker. The story is told through a series of vignettes and scenes, with some of the characters speaking directly to the audience. Director Beverly Darling casts 11 wonderful performers to fill these roles, presenting a topnotch mixture of comedy and poignancy to an appreciative audience who rewards them with a standing ovation at the end of the show.

Bev utilizes not only the stage with the indoor house set but uses park benches, a separate playing area with flats and movable set pieces for various scenes and the floor beneath the stage as the dance floor. Her direction and blocking is splendid. Leading the cast is Rob Drapeau as Jack Palmer, the befuddled and very patient social worker. He explains to the audience what is happening and reacts to the many comic and sympathetic situations he finds himself in. His interactions with the four handicapped men is well played. The ringleader of the four men is Arnold played by Paul Oliver. Arnold is hyperactive and has a persecution complex as well as being a compulsive chatter. Paul displays Arnold's deep seated insecurity and nervous behavior beautifully. His many funny scenes include wetting his pants with water, wanting to move to Russia because no one will listen to his problems, removing the rugs in their apartment, polishing a bully's shoes at the movie theater where he works and making fun of Helen's tick while she dances. His last scene with Rob as Jack is very touching, creating the perfect ending to the show.

One of the biggest scene stealers in this show is Bill Castro as Norman who works in a donut shop and eats as many as he sells. Bill inhales a Krispy Kreme donut in one breath which is hilarious while offering the Honey Dew donuts to his date of the evening. After his date he throws donuts out the window at the audience and hurls them again when Jack insists he is leaving them for another job. Norman says "Oh Boy" a lot, introduces himself to everyone he meets and wears a huge key ring with tons of keys on it. His dishwashing scene is very comical when he tries get cheese and egg off the dishes. Norman's girlfriend, Sheila is well played by April Conway who calls Norman fat, gives him flowers on their date and they have a dance scene where they both become splendid dancers at the close of Act 1. Another scene stealer is Alex Aponte as Lucien P. Smith who is the most retarded member of the group, having the mind of a 5 year old child. He constantly says "I be Lucian P. Smith" but he shows the most compassion and love to this fellow housemates and to Jack. Some of his comic moments include spraying Pledge as an air freshener, climbing on a chair while saying "I be High", flushing a rat down the toilet and having his two hand puppets fight with each other. Alex also delivers a moving speech directly to the audience to describe the plight of Lucian and is also touching when he sobs when Jack finally leaves them for another job during the going away party. The fourth member of this group, Barry is well played by Roger Campbell. He plays a brilliant schizophrenic who becomes devastated when he is visited by his verbally and physically abusive father after nine years. Barry up to this point has been a vital and energetic "golf pro" with a great deal of confidence. He has many comic moments teaching others how to golf and after his father's vicious mistreatment, Barry never recovers.

The brutal and horrible one-armed father is expertly played by Doug Macaskill. His abusive treatment of his son is frightening and he destroys everything in his path especially his fragile son. Rounding out this cast are four wonderful character actors. Dennis Magee plays Mr. Hedges who is one of Barry's golf students ( Barry keeps calling him Mr. Hodges which drives him nuts) as well as Mr. Corbin who is Arnold's boss at the movie theater and has to tell him to put the sanitary napkins in the ladies room. Veteran actress Sylvia Witschi plays the very deaf Mrs Fremus who misunderstands everything Barry says to her and tries to golf but can't lift the golf club because of her arthritis. Caitlin Robert plays the neighbor, Mrs. Warren who's son has lost one of his hamsters (they think it is a rat and killed it) and also plays Sheila's friend, Clara who constantly eats popcorn at the dance and continually says no at the same time. Bert Cayer Jr. plays Senator Clarke who interview Lucian to find out whether he should take a job in the outside world. So for a show with a terrific mixture of comedy and poignancy, be sure to catch "The Boys Next Door".

"The Boys Next Door" (16 February - 4 March)
71 North Main Street, ATTLEBORO MA
1 (508) 226-8100

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide