The “boys” in “The Boys Next Door” are developmentally disabled adults, living in a group home.
If it sounds like a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie special, you’re right. It was, back in 1996, starring Nathan Lane and Robert Sean Leonard.
Yet it began as play by Tom Griffin, way back in the 1980s, and it has been surprising people with its humor and humanity ever since.
“I wanted to open the season with something uplifting and funny,” said Reed McColm, the artistic director of Interplayers Professional Theatre.
“It has a wonderful mix of heart and soul. It has sentiment, but not the kind that just pulls at your heartstrings.”
Audiences have grown understandably wary of decades of Oscar-seeking movies starring leading men pretending to be developmentally disabled.
“The Boys Next Door” avoids mawkishness and pity-seeking. It has gone on to become a popular and crowd-pleasing choice at many regional and community theaters, including previous Spokane productions in 1994 and 2001.
New York Times critic Alvin Klein put it perfectly in his 1990 review:
“Here is just the sort of play that some people resist, misunderstand or find threatening, but its emotional pull and entertainment value are considerable. …
“Three scenes are so inherently stageworthy and gripping that each one has the power to leave an audience spent.”
The Interplayers production will be directed by Troy Nickerson, a stalwart of Spokane stages for decades. He’s possibly best known for directing musicals, but his touch with comedy has always been equally deft.
Cast member David Gigler is a veteran of the warm-hearted 1994 Spokane Civic Theatre production. He will reprise his memorable portrayal of Norman Bulansky, who works at a doughnut shop and finds romance.
“They are all trying so hard to assimilate into mainstream society,” said McColm. “They make mistakes, but they are well-meaning, always.”
The cast also includes Todd Kehne, Jhon Goodwin, Billy Hultquist, Rick Rivera, Patricia Brady, Ron Ford, Jone Campbell Bryan and Jerry Sciarrio.