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November 6, 2007

Clarksville Little Theatre shines with ‘Boys Next Door’

‘The Boys Next Door’Starring Neil Brewer, Kevin Butler, Daniel Main, Kevin Temple and Brian West. Directed by Janet Morris. Written by Tom Griffin. A Clarksville Little Theatre production that continues through Nov. 10. For more info, call 283-6522 or visit www.clarksvillelittletheatre.org.Clarksville Little Theatre bites off exactly what it can chew in its production of “The Boys Next Door,“ a heartwarming series of vignettes about four mentally challenged adult men and their caretaker. Experienced actor Janet Morris, in a spectacular directorial debut, provides a lush playground for the perfectly cast actors to fully develop their unforgettable characters.    As the lights come up, we see a clean but institutional yellow apartment where the “boys” live. Attention to set design detail borders on the fanatical. There’s even a working doorbell. Arnold (Neil Brewer) is a fast-talking, anxiety-ridden paranoiac who doesn’t know how to stop people from taking advantage of him. Lucien (Brian West) has the mind of a 5-year-old. Norman (Kevin Temple) holds a job at a doughnut shop but can’t stop eating them. Barry (Kevin Butler) is schizophrenic and fancies himself a golf pro.    While it would be easy to throw together caricatures of mentally handicapped adults, the actors refuse to do so. They present their richly drawn characters with love and empathy. Much of the surreal humor comes from the boys’ concrete thinking, as when Norman’s girlfriend brings him flowers and he offers her a doughnut. She suggests he “find a jar for them.” He thinks she wants him to put the doughnuts in a jar. But it’s not all fun and games — there are several poignant moments that will have you dabbing your eyes, such as when Lucien bares his tortured soul trapped inside a confused mind, while addressing the state senate.    The only weak points are the tedious monologues by the boys’ caretaker, Jack (Daniel Main). Other characters’ monologues work because they are given something to do (Arnold polishes his boss’ shoes while addressing the audience). Jack, on the other hand, has nothing to do but stand awkwardly looking into the crowd while delivering pointless expository dialog that could have been excised.    Although there’s no real plot, the play doesn’t lapse into a TV melodrama or sitcom. It’s a snapshot of pivotal moments in each man’s life with no real resolution. Just like reality. BY SHERRY DEATRICKsdeatrick@gmail.com