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The Boys Next Door

a Comedy
by Tom Griffin

COMPANY : Georgia Ensemble Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Roswell Cultural Arts Center
ID# 3792

SHOWING : September 02, 2010 - September 19, 2010



This touching and funny play focuses on four adult men living in a group home, along with their caring but overworked counselor. Mingled with scenes from their daily lives, where "little things" sometimes become momentous ( and often very funny), are moments of great poignancy. We are reminded that those with special needs, like the rest of us, want only to love and laugh and find meaning in their lives.

Director Tess Malis Kincaid
Arnold Wiggins John Benzinger
Mr. Klemper Rial Ellsworth
Mr. Hedges/Mr. Corbin/Sen. Clarke Charles Green
Norman Bulansky Luis Hernandez
Jack David Kronawitter
Sheila Cara Mantella
Barry Klemper Chad Martin
Mrs. Fremus/Mrs. Warren/Clara Wendy Melkonian
Lucien P. Smith Spencer G. Stephens
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Prison View
by playgoer
Sunday, September 12, 2010
I hate ďThe Boys Next Door.Ē I repeat, I hate ďThe Boys Next Door.Ē Curtain up, end of story. Itís the play I dislike so much. I donít like plays that unroll as an endless series of short scenes. Act endings that depend on sudden flights into fantasy donít impress me much either. I knew I disliked the play going in, so I shouldnít be surprised that Georgia Ensemble Theatreís production didnít change my mind.

The set of the show is dominated by a shabby, but presentable apartment. Itís just right for the group home of Arnold, Lucien, Norman, and Barry. A perfect touch is the framed picture of what seems to be a Disneyland castle. Obscuring the edges of the set and dwindling to nothing at center is a fake brick wall. The opening allows unimpeded access for monologues declaimed down center, but also acts as a window through which views can be seen of a nearby prison.

The brick wall distances the action in the apartment from the audience, which isnít a good thing. Closer proximity would provide more intimacy and impact, as is true whenever outside scenes are played in front of the wall. The brick divider makes it seem that the mentally challenged residents are apart from us, separate, walled off. One of the points of the play is that such people arenít that different from the rest of us in fundamental ways.

The four actors playing the four residents are all excellent. Spencer G. Stephens invests the simple Lucien P. Smith with childlike joys, fears, and obsessions. John Benzinger turns the depressed, but functional Arnold Wiggins into a force of unreasonable anger and emotional neediness. Chad Martin, as the schizophrenic Barry Klemper, works a wonderful transition from near-normalcy to catatonia. But it is Luis R. Hernandez who impresses most, giving Norman Bulansky fluttering finger movements that strike as entirely true to life.

The other members of the cast donít impress as much, but they arenít given as much to do. Wendy Melkonian and Charles Green, who have been standouts in other productions in which they havenít had lead roles, do able work here, but donít wow. Rial Ellsworth takes on the role of Barryís father with drive and intensity, but itís just one scene and an unlikable character. Cara Mantella, as Normanís friend Sheila, struck me as too intelligent and too actor-y to fit in with the rest of the cast, although I realize my opinion wonít be shared by all.

The role of Jack, responsible for this group home among others, is played by David Kronawitter. The character tells us that the residents alternately make him laugh and frustrate him, but in act one we donít see much motivation for this. He laughs, yes, and feels frustration, but we donít see the human connection that must have drawn him to this line of work. That connection is fully seen in act two, though, when he is exploring other employment opportunities. He seems to truly connect in ways that weren't evident in the first act.

Georgia Ensemble Theatre's production of "The Boys Next Door" is a nice, professional production, with fine costumes and lighting, but it doesn't do all it can to minimize the inherent weakness of the play's fractured scene sequence. Even so, the performance I attended was given a genuine, leap-to-the-feet standing ovation. I may not have been overly impressed, but others were. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
moving and funny
by keylimepie
Thursday, September 2, 2010
Granted, The Boys Next Door is a script I have had on my "favorites" list for a long time, so my expectations were high when I attended the production at Georgia Ensemble Theaatre. In spite of having to warm up to some of the characters over the course of the show, overall, it was a fine production. I give very high marks to all the technical aspects: set, sound, and particularly to the amazing lighting design. The direction by Tess Kinkaid was obviously tender and strong; her love for the script was apparent. The staging of the dream sequences and the chaos scenes were genius. The actors who get my bouquets of roses are Luis Hernandez as Norman, Spencer Stephens as Lucien, Charles Green as three minor characters, and Rial Ellsworth as the hateful, sad, disappointed Mr. Klemper. John Benzinger was exceptionally strong as Arnold Wiggins and bought much laughter with his physicality and his line delivery, but he didn't show enough vulnerability to make him entirely believeable to me. David Kronawitter as Jack and Chad Martin as Barry Klemper were inconsistent in their characterizations. I would see the character for awhile then I saw the actor for guess is they will settle in more during the run of the show. Cara Mantella as Sheila was questionable casting; she is attractive, well put together, slim, and young, which is not what I expected of Sheila. Wendy Milkonian differentiated among her three roles, but only the role of Mrs. Warren was convincingly real with the role of Clara earning high points for effort. The show is in a very early stage; I saw a preview, so it will only get better and better. Go see it. It will make you laugh and cry and think....good theatre, indeed! [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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