WEST CHESTERFIELD, N.H. >> Tom Griffin's much produced and heralded comedy/drama "The Boys Next Door," opens at the Actors Theatre Playhouse.
The 12 performances are scheduled for Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, Sept. 8 through Oct. 1 at 7:30 p.m. This touching, comic and compassionate play explores with wit and sensitivity the daily lives of four young men with mental disabilities and the exacting toll it takes upon their caregiver and overseeing social worker.
The Actors Theatre Playhouse is located on the corner of Brook and Main Streets. For additional Information on this and other Playhouse productions, directions, reviews, blogs, etc., visit www.ATPlayhouse.org. Toll free box office line is 877-666-1855. Tickets are $15. On Fridays, student tickets are $8.
"What makes this play worth seeing is the manner in which the playwright creates unsentimental characters who maintain their dignity and humanity in their world that is, at best, a place of utter and profound confusion," notes the The New York Times about "The Boys Next Door." "Dramatically, they cannot experience a catharsis and move on. As an audience, we learn not to expect character development, but, rather, we appreciate small victories and sympathize with defeats ... It should be emphasized that there is nothing depressing about 'The Boys Next Door.' The play offers us a chance to see the lives of people who are struggling to get along and who are, in that respect, not all that much different from the rest of us."
"This is such a touching dramatic work," said Director Marilyn Tullgren, remarking upon the playwright's unique slant on such a sensitive and often misunderstood subject. "Tom Griffin takes us into the everyday world of the mentally challenged with such wit and sensitivity that you come away with a greater understanding of what it means to be so afflicted. I don't want to give anything away, but he's a very smart playmaker. Several times throughout the evening there are moments we are literally swept into their world and see reality through their and our own eyes. It's a one-of-a-kind moment like no other I can recall in the theater. I find it incredibly funny and moving at the same time."
The setting is a communal residence in a New England city, where four mentally handicapped men live under the supervision of an earnest, but increasingly "burned out" social worker named 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 5-year-old but imagines that 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 when, with touching effectiveness, 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.
In the cast are G. Sherman H. Morrison, Bruce Holloway, David Peck, Harral Hamilton, Jonathan Reid, Heather McCormack, Gail Haas, Jim Bombicino and Arthur Pettee.
"Directing The Boys Next Door has been such a joy working with such an incredible amount of talent," said Tullgren. "Time and discipline have gone into the creation of these characters by this dedicated cast. It has been a joy to watch them become the people they are playing, and see them such rich understanding to the piece. That, and the level of humor the playwright brings to each and every situation. There are scenes that are simply hysterically funny. Since the humor is being created by mentally challenged people, it was paramount to ensure that audiences are laughing with the characters and not at the characters. Also, considering the shape and size of the Playhouse, creating space for the many outdoor/dance/official scenes meant getting creative. Very creative."