Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Wakefield High The Boys Next Door

By • Dec 3rd, 2007 • Category: Cappies

Arnold’s moving to Russia, Lucien’s pension is going to be revoked, Norman’s gaining weight from eating too many doughnuts, and no one will take Barry’s golf lessons. And such is life with The Boys Next Door, performed this past weekend at Wakefield High School.

The Boys Next Door was written by Tom Griffin and was made into a film in 1996. It deals with four mentally disabled men who live in a group home. The play takes place over a period of two weeks, and contains brief vignettes of the men’s lives. It is entertaining in a non-mocking way.

Wakefield’s production was anchored by the talent and tenacity of the entire cast. Every member contributed to portraying the lives of four mentally disabled men. Most notable were the four actors who played Lucien, Arnold, Barry, and Norman.

Playing the “Boys Next Door” were four very talented actors, who portrayed the disabled men extremely accurately, but in a non-judgmental and respectful way. Most impressive was Kevin Trudel, who played Lucien P. Smith, the man most severely disabled. Trudel perfected the unique speech pattern and carriage of a mentally challenged man. Also impressive were Chris Stanton, who played the nervous Arnold Wiggins, J.J. Nell, who played challenged, overweight Norman Bulansky, and Gary Kennedy, who played schizophrenic golf pro Barry Klemper. All four of these leading actors did an impeccable job showing the inside life of challenged people.

Following those talented leads was a strong supporting cast, led by Kaye Siapno, who played Jackie, the social worker for the four men. Siapno embodied the stereotypical overworked-underpaid social worker, with a short temper and tired monologues. Also memorable was Brenda Nascimento who played deaf old Mrs. Fremus. Her gray hair, old lady makeup, and crippled walk embodied perfectly that of an elderly woman.

Technical aspects of Wakefield’s production were well done. The set was detailed and accurate, and the expansive use of the entire stage was impressive. In addition to the main set of the apartment were props and intentional lighting that allowed the play to travel outside the apartment, to the train station and to a dance. Lighting at times was a little dark, but otherwise well done. Sound was good also, with only a few minor mistakes. Costumes and makeup were time and age appropriate. Lucien’s Spiderman shirts and tie were very cute and added greatly to his character.

Taking a play that is very somber and deep, Wakefield made it their own without mocking or desensitizing the underlying meaning. The talent it takes to do such a thing is great, and the cast should be commended. From Lucien’s substantial monologue came a memorable line, “And without me, without my shattered, crippled brain, you will never again be frightened by what you might have become. Or indeed, by what your future might make you.” This line collects together the entire meaning of the play, the awareness that mentally challenged are still people, that they also live lives. Wakefield performed a complicated, sensitive play with grace and respect.

The Boys Next Door” will be performed again on December 7 and 8 at 7:00PM. Don’t miss it.

by Katie Ogden of TC Williams

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