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Earnest performances win out in Poteet's 'Boys Next Door'



"The Boys Next Door" are four guys sharing a group apartment in Boston, working at menial jobs in the community. They have dreams of going to Russia, getting married and having children, golfing on the pro circuit and collecting library books.

All of them also happen to be mentally and/or physically challenged.

For those struggling with severe disabilities, everyday events can become overwhelming, and, in writer Tom Griffin's hands, also hugely funny.

While the play walks a tightrope between humor and sentimentality, it takes the characters on their own terms. It is not their mental diagnoses that defines them.

The cast members coalesce nicely in their roles, but with occasional overdone choices. The costumes, which are too comically mismatched, probably add to that perception. The script itself is loaded with lots of choppy, brief scenes besides the main apartment action, which makes it difficult to seamlessly mount. 

Quicker pacing would help several of the comic scenes, which linger too long, wringing out every moment. In more serious ones, however, as when Barry sees his estranged father, the action erupted too quickly, making it difficult to believe.

Even with some of these problems, the genuinely heartfelt and earnest performances win out. Jack says of the community dance, "This is either the saddest place in the world or it's the happiest." The world of "The Boys Next Door" shows us it's actually both.

"?Linda McDonald



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