Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Falls Church High School The Boys Next Door

By • Apr 22nd, 2008 • Category: Cappies

In our fast-paced society, it can be difficult to slow down and appreciate life. But for the protagonists of Falls Church High School’s production of The Boys Next Door, every day brings new obstacles and new discoveries.

An off-Broadway success by Tom Griffin, The Boys Next Door follows the lives of four developmentally disabled men who live together in a group home under the care of sincere, but increasingly despairing, social worker Jack (Peter Gillis). Equally humorous and poignant, the play examines the often overlooked lives of the mentally disabled.

Falls Church’s Boys Next Door presented a window into the world of the four friends with understanding and dedication. Although their antics were often comical, the actors were always respectful toward their characters’ conditions.

The play revolves around the four “boys,” all of whom were skillfully performed by a well-rounded cast. Ian Mills, as the paranoid and explosive Arnold, and Sam Johnson, as the dorky and donut-loving Norman, both got laughs with their honest performances. Eric Holl demonstrated an impressive range of emotion as the schizophrenic Barry, whose swaggering confidence is shattered upon the arrival of his abusive father (Steven Szatkowski). Lucien, the resident with the mental capacity of a five-year old, was brilliantly acted by Amir Malekghasemi. His keen insight into the kindhearted Lucien as not just a disabled person but as a human being was nothing short of astounding. Last but certainly not least, Peter Gillis as Jack provided a calm contrast to the eccentric personalities of the four men, handling his numerous monologues with ease.

Most notable among the supporting characters were Shelia (Shanley Culbertson), the mentally retarded young woman with whom Norman falls in love, and Mr. Klemper (Steven Szatkowski), Barry’s gruff and abrasive father. Adorable and childlike, Culbertson had delightful chemistry with Johnson. In contrast, Szatkowski’s callous interactions with Holl added tension to the play’s climax.

The majority of the action takes place in the boys’ living room that was filled with thoughtful details such as a “Home Sweet Home” sign mounted on the wall. In the first act, musical underscoring and sound effects provided a sense of location and mood. Lighting changes were handled speedily, but sometimes interrupted the intensity of more emotional scenes.

Falls Church rose to the formidable challenge of portraying the mentally retarded in a realistic and considerate manner with its production of The Boys Next Door. Their lighthearted and moving performance reminded the audience that the handicapped, like the rest of us, are human beings who continually search for love and purpose.

by Sarah Anne Sillers of Winston Churchill

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