Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Boys Next Door at Catalina Foothills High School

Went to a high school play last night for a change of pace.  We saw a poster in a local coffee shop. It was billed as the Catalina Foothills High School Drama Department's prize winning  Arizona Thespian Festival entry.  It will be going on to the National Festival in Nebraska this spring.

The Thespian entry was a one-act version; this evening's offering was the full two act play, which was billed as a money maker to help send the troupe to Nationals in Nebraska.   It was co-directed by two outstanding young men from the cast.  No mention was made of who did the festival cutting.

We were initially quite puzzled by the title of  the show on the program as the cast of "The Boys Next Door" by Tom Griffin included several women.  An internet check later that  evening cured that up.  The play was originally written in the eighties and all four of the developmentally disabled people in the apartment were male and their caretaker was male.  In this production the lynchpin caretaker is Jackie not Jack and Lucien Smith, a mentally incapacitated young man becomes becomes Lucy Smith, a 35 year old woman with an intellectual age of around five.  Though this gender switching is understandable when trying to balance out roles, it did create some new and problematic male/female issues. i.e. would it be appropriate to have a young female caretaker shepherding a group home with three sexually mature males (no matter how challenged in other areas.)  In the same vein would one assign a mature woman with a mental age of five to live in the same apartment with those three mature men?

In spite of this,  the young cast shows an outstanding energy level and commitment. The disabilities are presented openly and with heart warming candor.  We definitely are encouraged to laugh with the characters not at them. A definite round of applause goes to the two young co-directors, who also act in the show. Most of the cast needs to work a bit more on projecting the soft moments without going inaudible. This is especially true when they are utilizing the side stages in this small theatre.

The most demanding role is that of the caretaker and though Stefanie Tedards gives it a go, she doesn't yet have quite enough maturity and depth to succeed in convincing us of her struggle with guilt as she ministers to her flock while coping with her own desires to get on with a different life.  If this doesn't come through strongly to knit the narrative together, the individual vignettes don't cohere quite as well.  On this same note though, I suspect that the 25 minute version is a lot tighter and more focused.

There will be plenty of time to work on the show some more before they go on Nebraska. It is a challenging subject and I am convinced that the group  will be in a strong position to win national recognition with it.

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