“The Boys Next Door” was, in the words of the show’s main character, “either the saddest place I have ever been, or the happiest.”
Associate professor of Theatre Jeffrey Clapp directed the cast to unearth superb moments of both slapstick comedy and raw emotion.
In Act 1, the stars of the show were introduced. Jack took care of four men living in a group home: Arnold, Lucien, Norman and Barry.
When the characters all share the stage, it’s truly magnificent.
In Act 2, the struggles of these men escalated into chaos and heavy-handed drama, but the play still managed to make me laugh. In fact, I found myself laughing much more in the second act than in the first.
As Jack wrestled with the idea of leaving the men in the group home for a less stressful job, we saw the constant struggles of the men as they lost him.
Throughout the play, Jack, played by senior Mitchell Helton, gave a series of powerful monologues. Helton gave a solid overall performance throughout the production.
There was a certain level of sadness behind each persona in this play that the actors and actresses managed to perfectly capture, while at the same time making the play very humorous.
One of the areas that the humor in the play shone the brightest through the character of Norman Bulansky, played by first-year student Conner Brown.
Brown and first-year Kathryn Wee, who played Norman’s love interest Shelia, shared some of the cutest moments I’ve ever seen on the stage.
The use of body language in “The Boys Next Door” was spot-on. Embodying a character with a disability is something that even the world’s best actors find to be a real challenge.
Junior Samuel Collier, who plays Lucien, managed to do this in a way I had never seen before. Collier was able to display the struggles of a mental disability in a way that was humbling, brave and respectful, but also humorous and relatable. In Act 2, Collier will break your heart as he appeals to Senator Clarke, played by first-year Lydia Bill, who gives a powerful performance during her short time on the stage.
As I watched “The Boys Next Door” I did not see Collier—I saw Lucien P. Smith and the triumph of the human spirit.
Perhaps the most devastating moment of the play was witnessing Barry, the schizophrenic who believes he is a professional golfer, interact with his abusive father. First-year Jake Elliot portrayed Barry with incredible emotion and excellence in technique. Elliot shines in Act 2.
I am excited to watch Elliot develop even more as an actor over the next four years. Elliot truly embraced the flaws, quirks and pain of his character in a way that demands the community of Pacific Lutheran University to listen and to feel for Barry Klemper.
Sophomore Anthony Aguilar played Arnold Wiggins, the nervous, hilarious, compulsive character that just can’t seem to get his act together, to near perfection. I found it hard to believe that Aguilar is not a theatre major, because he was brilliant in “The Boys Next Door.”
Aguilar managed to accomplish a lot in every scene. He had incredible on-stage chemistry with almost every member of the cast. As Arnold threatened to move to Russia, stole rugs and critiqued every little thing his housemates did, I found myself enjoying every scene where Aguilar added his humor and charisma.
Overall, I strongly urge the entire student body of PLU to attend this production.
This was not only a funny and dramatic play, but it was a powerful one as well. “The Boys Next Door” reminds us that we are all human.
Our struggles may be different, but we each have a light and a power inside of us that transcends any physical barrier, mental disease or stereotype. 🅼