LIMELIGHT THEATRE REVIEW: “THE BOYS NEXT DOOR”

St. Augustine’s Limelight Theatre opened its fifth show of the season on March 6 with “The Boys Next Door,” a touching comedy-drama by playwright Tom Griffin. It will continue on stage through March 29, 2015.

The Boys Next Door,”  written in 1983 and originally titled “Damaged Hearts, Broken Flowers,” is a look at the world of intellectually disabled adults, through the eyes of four men who live together in group home in Boston, a simply furnished apartment, and the social worker who is assigned to care for them and help them find their way to main-stream living. As such, there is not a real plot, just scenes from their lives as they interact with each other and outsiders. The actors often address the audience directly in mini-monologues.

Joseph Stearman plays Jack, the counselor responsible for the welfare of “The Boys.” He is patient and easy-going, and is as well liked by the audience as he is by the residents he supervises. He supervises four other group homes, and acknowledges that he is beginning to experience burn-out.

Thomas Muniz is Arnold, the frequently agitated, frustrated over-the-edge leader. Jack indicates he has only a mild disability, but is “depressive.” While he is able to work as a janitor in a local theatre, he is frequently bullied and taken advantage of by others. He is also paranoid and when feeling pressured or anxious, threatens to move to Russia.

Norman (Jan Peter Buksar), although described by Jack in the terminology of the period as retarded, is one of the most functional members of the group. He has a part-time job at a donut shop and he loves donuts! Norman has a romantic interest in Sheila (Katie Timoney), a resident in another group home, and their date together is one of the most moving and touching scenes in the show.

Patric Robinson is Lucien P. Smith, who is enormously proud of his library card, but unable to read: he can only sing his ABC’s. His work life is limited to the confines of a sheltered workshop. Accompanied by Jack, he appears before a state committee headed by Senator Clark (George Bennis); the committee is threatening to discontinue the limited government assistance he receives, including his workshop placement. With the shift of a spotlight, Lucien appears as he might have been, a powerful, articulate, fully functioning man, but then returns to the reality of the present, with, in his words, a mental capacity “somewhere between a five-year old and an oyster.“

The fourth resident is Barry Kemper (Lucas Hopper) who is schizophrenic, and has been institutionalized in the past. He fashions himself as a golf pro and even gives lessons of a sort. Barry’s painful confrontation with his father, who comes to visit him for the first time in nine years, is emotionally wrenching. His father, played by Rich Nowell, is a seedy, vile, dead-beat dad who is abusive during their brief meeting, resulting in Barry’s severe regression, followed by a return to institutionalization.

Veteran Limelight actress Margaret Kaler plays three cameo roles to perfection. First she is Mrs. Femus, who interacts with golf pro Barry. Then she is Mrs. Warren, a neighbor searching for a lost pet, and finally appears as Clara, Sheila’s friend and fellow resident.

Lou Agresta appears as Mr. Hedges, who is interested in the golf lessons Barry is offering, but quickly realizes Barry’s instruction is not reality-based. He also appears as Corbin, the manager of the movie theatre where Arnold works.

The cast does a marvelous job throughout in portraying the strengths of “the boys” and the humor and sadness they encounter in a life filled with challenges; challenges they have not chosen for themselves.

The set by is a large attractive apartment with bedrooms off the main area, and was designed by Set Designer Carl Liberatore. Property Supervisor Shelli Long, Stage Manager Chris Wilson and Assistant Stage Manager Margaret Kaler did an excellent job of directing the many entrances and exits of the cast, in addition to keeping track of the many props used, like the nine boxes of Wheaties and those donuts and donuts and donuts.

The play was directed by Jean Rahner, co-founder and retired artistic director of Limelight. Rahner’s tight staging brings out insightful performances by this vibrant hard-working cast.

The North Florida theatre world is growing and more and more actors are discovering the unlimited acting opportunities in this area. Of the ten actors in this cast, six of them have appeared on various stages in the Jacksonville theatre scene, and Director Jean Rahner has directed many plays as well in on Jacksonville stages.

All performances are at the Post to Post Links II error: No link found for term slug "Limelight Theatre"on the Matuza Main Stage at 11 Old Mission Ave in St. Augustine Florida. Free parking is available for theatre patrons. Call (904) 825-1164 or visit limelight-theatre.org for reservations

 

About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.

october, 2021

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