“The Boys Next Door”? Never heard of it. But that’s one of Curtain Call’s missions: to bring unfamiliar, interesting work to the Capital Region.
The Boys Next Door
WHERE: Curtain Call Theatre, 210 Old Loudon Rd., Latham
WHEN: through Oct. 8
HOW MUCH: $22
MORE INFO: 877-7529 or [email protected]
Once again, producer Carol Max has found a strong script, by Tom Griffin, and matched it with an excellent production.
Max is also the play’s director. She and her accomplished cast have struck the right balance between funny and respectful, an important balance when the main characters are four men in a group home for the mentally/emotionally challenged. Griffin wisely provides us with a sympathetic mediator, Jack (Aaron Holbritter), the home’s supervisor, to help us negotiate our various responses to the behaviors of this quartet. On occasion Jack speaks directly to the audience, sometimes confessing his own challenges with his job or love life, at other times gently cautioning us to reserve judgment and not set ourselves apart. (Holbritter, who often plays over-the-top comic parts, demonstrates his acting chops with a subdued, sharply-etched portrait of a young man of great humanity.)
Two of the residents — Lucien P. Smith (Emmett Ferris) and Norman Bulansky (David Sherin) — have varying degrees of retardation, and two — Arnold Wiggins (Gary Maggio) and Barry Klemper (Ian LaChance) — suffer from neuroses.
Smith has a sweet innocence about him that, in one scene with Barry, trumps any intellectual shortcomings he might have.
Norman, who works at a donut shop, is a worrier and a burgeoning romantic, smitten with Sheila (Sara Fittizzi), herself mildly retarded. Barry’s schizophrenia manifests itself in articulate conversations about golf that frequently veer into illogic, as well as panic attacks about his relationship with his father, played by Ted Zeltner. And Arnold’s intelligence is everywhere evident, even as it’s masked by crippling fixations.
In short, Griffin has taken snapshots of the human mind in all its terrible and wonderful variations. But one thing he makes clear: every human being has a personality, that flash of specialness which, no matter how profoundly obscured by other problems, is recognizable and deserving of love.
There is, unfortunately, a scene involving Barry and his father that is tonally off. Despite the efforts of Zeltner and LaChance, the writing is so overwrought, full of back story baggage coming out in a torrent, that you wonder how this little piece of soap opera got into an otherwise insightful script.
The production team is crackerjack, including Lori Barringer’s sound, David Meyer’s set, Xavier Pierce’s lighting (so crucial for the frequent changes in locale and time), Roberta Rice’s props, Sarah Thea Swafford’s costumes and Casey Cieszynski’s stage management.
Linda Mizeur, as two neighbors, ably rounds out the cast of eight, and if her stage time is brief, her characters’ comments are germane. Listen carefully.
David Sherin is a superb addition to the CCT troupe, and his scenes with Fittizzi glow. Sherin makes us ache for Norman but never feel sorry for him. In Ferris’s capable hands, Lucien’s monologue in Act II is riveting. And Maggio’s Wiggins is sensational.
Wiggins is a geyser of emotion, spraying words indiscriminately, overwhelming himself and everyone in the vicinity. Thanks to Maggio’s impeccable timing and expressiveness, Wiggins makes you laugh and cry almost in the same beat.
The special dimension of these characters is not the reason to see “The Boys Next Door.” Good theater is the reason. Go.
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