Sometimes, work can burn you out, but being “burned out” is taken to a whole new level when your job is to oversee four mentally handicapped roommates. That’s exactly what the “Boys Next Door” is about.
The story followed Jack (played by Marcus Perez), an exhausted social worker that has just about had it with his job. He oversaw Arnold (Mike Mendez), who is always nervous and seemingly has some case of obsessive-compulsive disorder, Barry (Lino Placenco), who has schizophrenia, Lucien (played by Myles Martinez), who has the mind of a five year old, and Norman (Danny Cantu), who cannot stop eating donuts and can’t imagine letting go of his keys.
The play, written by Tom Griffin, took a humorous approach while still raising awareness on the serious and still relatively unknown issue of mental problems, and how our society deals with them.
It raises important unanswered questions like whether it’s moral to prohibit mentally handicapped people from reproducing and shows how our society still misunderstands the problems that mentally handicapped people go through.
It was easy for the audience to connect to Jack empathize with how burned out he is from dealing with four people who are unaffected by the changes in the society around him, unlike he is. Perez explained that this is what the play aimed to accomplish.
“It’s not only about dealing with the problem of helping the mental handicapped, but it’s about growing up and it’s about change,” he said. “It’s something that everyone can identify with.”
It was also easy for the audience to relate to each character’s demons because of how universal their problems are. Barry, though the most functioning of the roommates, gets sent back to an institution after his abusive father came to visit him. Arnold has obvious and deep insecurity issues. Norman has eating issues, and Lucien’s childish mind has led to years of confusion for him.
Yet, the play managed to be funny when putting these characters in a few hi jinx situations that brought laughter out of the audience. Some jokes were a little overused, but overall, it was funny nonetheless.
Each actor did well to bring a new aspect to the play, as Perez said.
“I love my fellow cast mates because they all brought such great energy to the storyline,” he said.
Though the story would have been more complete if it began before Jack burned out, and focused a little more with how Jack was dealing with the issue, the play still offered insight on different mental issues with each character, and it left the audience with something to think about once it was over.