By Sarah H. Dolan
February 16, 2011
MFA in Acting students Shinn-Rong Chung, Matthew Winning, Ryan Clemens and Chad Rasor in Regent University Theatre's production of The Boys Next Door by Tom Griffin.
Many adults would say that they remember their childhood with a fondness. The joys of life at a young age are simple, yet meaningful. A box of chocolates, learning the alphabet through song or an introduction to the game of golf carries a whole new level of excitement when experienced by a child.
And for the four mentally disabled men living together in Regent University Theatre Department's season-opening production of Tom Griffin's The Boys Next Door, it is the child-like aspects of their characters that are so endearing. Their obsession with keys, doughnuts and dishwashers is innocent enough to make any other grown man smile.
"We like the characters, because we see bits of ourselves in them," said director Mark Paladini, artist-in-residence for the School of Communication & the Arts. "I feel as though I'm a part of this family of four mentally challenged grown men and their vocationally challenged caretaker. As I experience the play with Regent's wonderful cast, I alternately see myself as one of 'the boys' and then as their caretaker—to the point where I'm sure that every moment of the play is about me. It is, in fact, about us."
In the production, the men's social worker, Jack, is burnt out with his job and life. Conflict in the household arises through obstacles that target specific challenges the non-mainstream men face when trying to function in a mainstream world.
"There is a message of letting go of control and unconditionally loving others," Paladini said. "This message is discovered by the caretaker of the men after 'two hours of traffic' on the stage."
Part of the message shown through Regent's production of The Boys Next Door is the emphasis on community and how each person participates in a shared humanity. The script is funny, yet heartwarming, and its characters "provide challenges for Regent's graduating actors who are at the peak of their game," said Paladini.
Three MFA in Acting students are performing their thesis roles for this production—Ryan Clemens (Arnold), Chad Rasor (Norman) and Matt Winning (Barry).
Performances of The Boys Next Door continue Thursday, September 24-26 at 8:00 p.m., and Saturday, September 26 and Sunday, September 27 at 3:00 p.m. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.regent.edu/theatre.