By Robert W. McDowell
Towne Players of Garner scored another hit with Tom Griffin's popular Off-Broadway comedy, The Boys Next Door, which ran April 21-29. Director Beth Honeycutt got great performances from her leads and assembled a strong supporting cast for this very funny, very sweet and immensely moving play about four mentally retarded adult men who share a communal apartment.
Rusty Sutton was terrific as roly-poly Norman Bulansky, who has a job in a local donut shop and a new girlfriend, Sheila (nicely played by Julie Pendleton), whom he is always trying to impress. And Rob Smith was hilarious as a bundle of nerves, with a slightly paranoid outlook, named Arnold Wiggins.
Holmes Morrison, who is fast emerging as one of the Triangle's finest actors, stole the show as the childlike Lucien P. Smith, who Social Security benefits are threatened by yet another round of government budget cuts; and Jeffrey Nugent was excellent as Barry Klemper, a charming schizophrenic who fancies himself a golf pro.
Greg Flowers was wonderfully wry as Jack Palmer, the sympathetic but increasingly burned-our, social worker who guides the men's attempts to reintegrate themselves into society.
Don Howard gives a one-note performance as Barry's verbally and physically abusive father, but Frances Stanley contributed a nice cameo as the boys' deaf next-door neighbor, Mrs. Fremus. Brian Burger and Sonya Starnes were good as Barry's perplexed pupil, Mr. Hedges, and Clara, a shy new girl that the boys meet at a dance, respectively.
Stephanie Veren, Meg Dietrich, and Lisa Burger complete the cast with their performances as another neighbor (Mrs. Warren) whose child lost a hamster, Arnold's boss at the movie theater, and a senarot holding a hearing on whether to cut off Lucien's Social Security benefits.
Although it had some rough spots, The Boys Next Door was another winning production for the Towne Players of Garner and director Beth Honeycutt. Her husband, technical director Scott Honeycutt, really worked miracles with the postage-stamp-sized stage of The Garner Historic Auditorium.
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