By Samuel Cohen
FARMINGTON – Mt. Blue Theater Company will present The Boys Next Door by Tom Griffin, directed by Deborah Muise. A sensitive and sophisticated comedy, The Boys Next Door gives the audience a glimpse into the everyday lives of four mentally handicapped men living in a group apartment. The play invites its audience to laugh with the men while delicately pointing out the struggle of their lives at the same time.
Arnold (Nick Beach) is the obsessive, paranoid ringleader of the group. Lucien (Andreas Wyder) is the most mentally handicapped, even though the government mistakenly disagrees. Norman (Tim Reid) is able to work at a donut shop, but grows fat from it and develops an obsession with keys. Barry (Sam Cohen) is schizophrenic – convinced he is a golf pro, he attempts to give lessons at $1.13 an hour. Jack (Matt West) rounds out the cast as a burned-out, disillusioned caretaker.
Nick Beach, left, and Andreas Wyder trying to hide groceries from their caretaker. (Samuel Cohen photo)
The play alternates between scenes of wild hilarity and gripping emotion. A frenzied nighttime rat chase serves as the peak of many comedic scenes, while the shattering emotional highpoint occurs in a brutal scene between Barry and his abusive father (Matt Allen). Griffin breaks from reality in two scenes, an uplifting dance sequence and a stirring monologue delivered by Lucien to the audience.
The Boys Next Door presents a challenge for both the actor and the viewer. For the actors, to overact would make a mockery of the character, while to be too normal would miss the point. Joe Seaward, who has worked with the mentally handicapped, came to rehearsal to give the actors insights on how to accurately portray their characters.
For the viewers, it is a constant challenge to decide whether to laugh or cry through the duration of the play. The answer: do both. The Boys Next Door allows and invites the audience to laugh and find joy in the boys’ antics. Although some scenes do demand emotional gravity, the overall tone of the play is deliberately optimistic. While the men do have limited minds, their hearts overflow with a kindness and compassion we all could use a little more of.
This play is not recommended for very young children due to occasional strong language and a scene of violence.
Matt West, left and Tim Reid rehearse a scene. (Samuel Cohen photo)
The play will be performed on Nov. 6, 7, and 8 at 7 p.m. in the Mt. Blue High School auditorium. Tickets are $4.50 for adults, $2.50 for students.