Enjoy a fly-on-the-wall peek into the lives of four developmentally disabled men and their social worker in Western Oregon’s summer production, “The Boys Next Door.”
“It’s a light, fluffy play despite the serious topic,” said director David Janoviak with the WOU Department of Theatre and Dance. “It will be a dang fun night at the theater.”
For two members of the five-man cast, getting into character was a little easier than for the other three.
Paul Malone, who plays Barry, works with people with developmental and intellectual disabilities at Partnerships in Community Living Inc.
He did some research into schizophrenia, Barry’s diagnosis, but said that when he’s onstage, he isn’t playing the diagnosis at all.
“I play the person,” Malone explained. “You can’t play the diagnosis. You play the human that is affected by it.”
Nick Kintz, who plays Jack, the social worker, said he draws on his experience working with elementary school children in special education.
One of the challenges for Jack is realizing that the four men he works with are adults, Kintz said, even when they act like children.
To help understand people with developmental and intellectual disabilities, the group attended a dance hosted by The ARC of Polk County. ARC is a nonprofit designed to support people with disabilities.
JR Jackson said attending the dance was insightful.
“Doing a show like this that’s contemporary, it’s realism,” said Jackson, who plays Lucien. “It’s very truthful and honest. We’re not trying to be sentimental about it.”
Malone called it a “slice of real life.”
“These four individuals who just happen to be disabled are living together, facing their fears,” Jackson added.
Kintz said the play is heartwarming, as his character tries to help these men while deciding whether or not he wants to stay in social work.
Janoviak said the play’s plot, using the word loosely, follows Jack’s journey while he makes this decision.
While Jack works through it, Kintz said he has very different reactions onstage naturally.
“The challenging part is doing scenes over and over and feeling something different,” he said. “This group causes Jack heartwarming feelings, and frustrated ones.”
And it’s hilarious. In fact, it’s tough for the actors to not bust a gut laughing, especially when their costars try something new.
“I’ll be watching the scene (offstage) and they’ll do something fresh, and it’s hilarious,” Malone said. “Then I’ll have to go on (not laughing). It’s a good acting challenge.”
Ken Tang, who plays Norman, said in one scene a character is yelling right in his face. It’s particularly tough for him to not laugh at this point, he said.
Trying to work out character Arnold’s habits and personality and motives, while at the same time working on comedic timing, was a challenge for actor Andrew Thornton.
“I’m, personally, discovering things each and every time I get on stage,” he said.
The play is a unique look at people with developmental and intellectual disabilities because it shows the humor in life. Other films and plays that address life with disabilities take a darker turn, Malone said.
Its honesty and humor are two reasons why the play has mass appeal and maintained its realism, Janoviak said.
“It’s a blast; it’s a hoot,” he said. “People will enjoy seeing the play.”
Go to the Theater
What: Western Oregon University Department of Theatre and Dance’s summer production, “The Boys Next Door.” Where: Rice Auditorium, Western Oregon University, 345 N. Monmouth Ave., Monmouth. When: Wednesday (today) through Saturday. Curtain is at 7:30 p.m., with a matinee at 2 p.m. on Saturday. Admission: General, $12; seniors, $10; students $7. Tickets may be purchased at the Rice Auditorium box office by calling 503-838-8462 through Friday from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m.
Of note: The Friday performance will include American Sign Language interpretation. For more information: 503-838-8462.