Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Boys Next Door"

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entire contents copyright 2001 by Tony Annicone

"The Boys Next Door"

Tony Annicone

Academy Players latest show "The Boys Next Door" is a funny and touching play about four mentally handicapped men living in a communal residence under the watchful eye of caring but burned out social worker. The story is told through a series of vignettes and scenes sometimes spoken directly to the audience. Director Tom DiMaggio has chosen the best people for this show and it is their acting prowess that puts it across to the audience.

Daniel Fisher plays Arnold, the ringleader of the group with the right amount of nervous behavior and line delivery to endear him to the audience. He has a persecuction complex is hyperactive and is a compulsive chatterer. Daniel displays these deep seated insecurities by using his physicality and makes Arnold an outstanding part of the play. His wetting the pants scene, Helen with tick scene and watching the end of movies (Wizard of Oz & Sound of Music) are just some of his great moments on stage.

Bob Mignarri plays Norman, who works in a doughnut shop and eats as many as he sells. He falls in love with Sheila played by Janette Gregorian. She loves the keyring he wears so on their "romantic date, he gives Sheila her very own key ring.Bob makes Norman a hoot with his "Oh boys" and his introducing himself to everyone he meets. His interactions with the rest of the cast is wonderful and his scenes with Janette are standouts, too. He is also very funny in the dishwashing scene. Janette's loud costumes and her acting strength come across making her scenes both tender and hilarious. She is very commanding on stage and her relationship with Norman stands out. Wonderful acting by them both.

Frank Dempsey does outstanding work as the befuddled and patient social worker, Jack. He tells the audience what is going on and reacts to the comic and pathetic situations he finds himself in. Frank's interactions with the four residents is warm and touching. He brings out the best in them and shows he's capable of doing more than just musicals and comedies. Frank handles the huge part with ease.

Rhodes Pierre plays the most retarded member of the group, Lucien P. Smith. The character has the mind of a 5 year old but Rhodes shows how someone even this severely retarded can act and feel towards others. The rat scene is funny and the going away party sobbing scene is sad. Rhodes shows his capability in handling both with ease. The fourth member of the group, Barry is played by 21 year old, Ethan Vlah. This kid is a natural on the stage. Ethan plays a brillant schizophrenic who is devastated by his verbally and physically abusive father. The moments he has with his father are heart wrenching to watch because Barry has been a vital and energetic "golf pro" with a great deal of confidence. This disappears with the arrival of his dad. Ethan displays great acting depth in his portrayal. His facial expressions and inability to talk in this scene are wonderful. He goes into a fetal position never to recover from the mistreatment by his cruel father. Bravo. The brutal and abusive one-armed father is played with mcuh gusto and conviction by veteran actor, John Cicero. John takes the mean, gutter mouth father and turns him into a virtual whirlwind on the stage, destroying everything in his path especially his fragile son. A very dynamic performance.

Playing three roles each are David Olsen and Pat Zawistoski. They make each character different from the others. David plays Barry's golfing student, Arnold's movie owner boss and Lucien's Senator at a hearing. Pat plays a deaf elderly neighbor with ankle stockings rolled up, a young newlywed neighbor and a retarded girl gobbling popcorn and repeating the word no over and over. Superb acting puts this show over to the audience.

"The Boys Next Door" (till 18 February)
The Greenwich Odeum, Main Street, EAST GREENWICH, RHODE ISLAND
1(401) 885-6910

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide