Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Boys Next Door"

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entire contents copyright 2006 by Tony Annicone

"The Boys Next Door"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Theatre Works second show of their 24th season is Tom Griffin's "The Boys Next Door", a funny and touching play about four mentally handicapped men leaving 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 Connie Anderson chose topnotch performers to fill these roles, presenting a splendid mixture of comedy and poignancy to an appreciative audience who rewards them with a standing ovation at the close of the show.

Connie pays close attention to not only the comic scenes and one liners but to the dramatic scenes, too. She makes the audience empathize with the characters, presenting a well rounded and well thought out show. The wonderful institutional setting is by Mark Anderson. Befuddled and patient social worker, Jack is well played by Greg Bonin. He tells the audience what is going on and reacts to the many comic and pathetic situations he finds himself in. Greg's interactions with the four residents is warm and touching as Jack brings out the best in them.The ringleader of these four men is Arnold played by Kevin Broccoli, a recent graduate of Rhode Island College. His strong portrayal of this hyperactive man who has a persecution complex and is a compulsive chatterer is excellent. Kevin conveys Arnold's deep seated insecurity and nervous behavior with his line delivery. He has many funny scenes including wetting his pants with water, wanting to move to Russia because no one will listen to his problems, removing all the rugs in their apartment, polishing the bully's shoes at his movie usher's job and describing Helen's tick while she dances. His last scene at the end of the play where he waits for a train to take him to Russia is touching and creates the perfect end to the play.

Chris Kibbe plays Norman who works in a donut shop and eats as many as he sells. Norman falls in love with Sheila played by Patricia Hawkridge. Sheila loves the key ring he wears so on their "romantic date", he gives Sheila her very own key ring. Chris is very funny as Norman who says "Oh Boy" most of the time as well as constantly introducing himself to everyone he meets. His interactions with the rest of the cast are wonderful and his scenes with Patricia are splendid, too. Chris' dishwashing scene is comical as he complains about the cheese and eggs being stuck to all the dishes he has to wash. Patricia's acting prowess comes across making her scenes both tender and humorous. Her loud and funny costumes are by Sharon Charette. Joe Casey delivers one of his best performances in the role of Lucien P. Smith, the most retarded member of the group who has 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 his fellow housemates and to Jack. Joe has many comic one liners and he hits paydirt with all of them. Some of his hilarious moments include spraying Pledge as an air freshener, dusting the furniture with a sock and then climbing on a chair while saying "I be High", killing a rat in the bathroom in the middle of the night and having his two handpuppets fight with each other. Joe also delivers a moving speech directly to the audience to describe the plight of Lucian and is touching when Lucian sobs when Jack finally leaves them for another job during the going away party. The fourth member of this group, Barry is played fantastically by Ryan Hanley, a young man in his early twenties who recently spent time doing summer stock in Ohio. This kid is a natural on stage, displaying great acting depth in this role. Ryan plays a brilliant schizophrenic who becomes devastated when he is visited by his verbally and physically abusive father after nine years. The moments he has dreading the arrival of his father as well as the ones with his father are heart wrenching to watch because Barry up to this point has been a vital and energetic "golf pro" with a great deal of confidence.(He also has many funny moments as the golfing expert.) Ryan's facial expressions and inability to talk in this scene are wonderful as is his curling up into a fetal position never to recover after his father's vicious mistreatment. Bravo.

The brutal and abusive one-armed father is played expertly by veteran actor, Ron Mutton. Ron takes this mean, gutter mouth father and turns him into a virtual whirlwind onstage, destroying everything in his path, especially his fragile son. He turns in a very dynamic performance. Rounding out this fabulous cast are Desiree Hewey and Mark Anderson. She plays three roles including the very deaf Mrs. Fremus who misunderstands everything Barry says to her, Mrs. Warren, a young neighbor whose son's hamster ran away and Clara, a retarded girl who keeps saying no while constantly gobbling popcorn. He plays Barry's golf student, Mr. Hedges, Arnold's movie theater owner boss and does the voice of the Senator at Lucien's hearing. So for a fantastic show with topnotch acting, be sure to catch "The Boys Next Door".

"The Boys Next Door" (10 - 19 November)
142 Clinton Street, WOONSOCKET RI
1 (401) 766-1898

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide