Written by Tom Griffin, “The Boys Next Door” explores the lives of four mentally challenged men living in a group home in the Boston area. It’s structured in a series of blackout-style brief vignettes covering several months of their lives together. The Players Theatre production, directed by Elliott Raines, offers an intimate view of being handicapped and caring for the handicapped. The play goes beyond that simple requirement, though, and, through its script, as well as the sensitive acting, becomes both humorous and touching.
Dylan Jones is extremely convincing as Arnold Wiggins, a hyper, talkative man who’s obsessed with all things Russian and, when under stress, compulsively repeats the word “nyet” and threatens to emigrate.
Stephen Pustai is adorably sweet as Norman Bulansky, whose IQ is big enough to allow him to work at a doughnut shop. The doughy treats seem to have taken over his entire life, however, except for his ability to court Sheila (charmingly played by Ellie Pattison), who lives at another group home and is equally enthusiastic about him, especially after he presents her with a large bunch of keys, the object of her desire for as long as she can remember.
Adam Garrison is highly believable as Lucien P. Smith, a large man who’s so debilitated that he can’t even read, although he checks out enough books at the library to be accused of faking it by the state board.
The plot twists when schizophrenic Barry Klemper, who believes he’s a golf pro (nicely played by Ron Pearson), is confronted by his abusive father, Mr. Klemper, in a fairly harrowing scene, delivered with uncomfortable conviction by Barry Look.
Jack Palmer, the men’s social worker, thoughtfully rendered by Ross Boehringer, shakes up the group with his reluctant, yet understandable, announcement that he has to leave them for a job in the outside world that’s more remunerative and less frustrating.
Paul Hutchison makes successful appearances as Mr. Hedges, Mr. Corbin and Senator Clarke, and Lynne Doyle takes two bright turns in the roles of Mrs. Fremus and Mrs. Warren.
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Sound of hope
The holiday season hasn’t officially started until our favorite bell ringers return to their posts.
Shoppers and residents were treated to some holiday harmonies by the Senior Friendship Centers’ group, the Second Wind Harmonica Players, in Downtown Sarasota.
Stepping up to the plate
The Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County teamed up to bring the anti-bullying event Rachel’s Challenge to Sarasota Dec. 3.