“Reality is defined by everyone’s perceptions,” said Truman High School theater instructor Ron Meyer, “and everyone’s reality is different.”
That statement serves as the basis for Truman High School’s spring production of “The Boys Next Door,” performing this Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The play follows the lives of four intellectually disabled individuals in the late 1980s Boston.
Despite merely sounding like a character study, Meyer says that it involves a plot involving social worker Jack Palmer, played by junior Sonny Erstad, who is contemplating whether to continue his line of work due to the workload and stress.
However, “Boys” is mainly a comedy, with a few thematic moments. It is not a heavy drama suggested by the type of characters and plot.
“There is a fine line between making an offensive caricature and a honest portrayal,” Meyer said of the play’s humor. “The students have been real good in portraying their characters as honest and authentic as possible.”
Meyer said he chose this production because of how it handles diversity and acceptance.
“I’ve never done it. It reflects how today’s kids fully include people with oddities, particularly disabilities. Something that wasn’t done when I was growing up.”
He added that it debunks preconceived notions people might have who are unfamiliar with the mentally handicapped.
“People who are mentally challenged have everyday problems like any other average person,” said Erstad on what he learned about intellectually disabled people in preparation for his role. “They have the same needs and desires like us.”
“It has a funny side,” said senior Michael Alexander, who portrays Norman Bulansky in “Boys,” “but it also has a deeper meaning and message.”
Both say “Boys” allowed them to be thankful for having the ability to speak for themselves, unlike most who are diagnosed as intellectually disabled. Another important lesson they said they learned was that mentally handicapped people need others for support, just as anybody else does in life. Alexander also added that despite his character’s handicap, he has an “incredible heart.”
“It’s heart-warming, funny, touching, sad and appropriate in a good way,” said Meyer on why audiences should see “The Boys Next Door.” “I encourage all families to come see the play. It will help them better understand those who are intellectually disabled.”
“The Boys Next Door” runs April 23, 24 and 25 at Truman High School’s auditorium, at 3301 S. Noland Road in Independence. All showtimes are 7 p.m. Tickets are $7 in advance and $8 at the door for both children and adults. Tickets can be purchased by calling the school at 816-521-5350.
In the play’s program, a disclaimer is written about the word “retarded” being used by several of the characters in the play. The theater department chose to remain historically accurate to the script. The word “retarded” is by no means meant to insult or offend anyone.
Alex Millard - Arnold Wiggins Brian Lightbourne - Lucien P. Smith Sonny Erstad - Jack Palmer Michael Alexander - Norman Bulansky Jaggard Williams - Barry Klemper Austen Howe - Jon Hedges Abby Freeman - Mrs. Fremus Kayleigh Stiff - Karen Warren Sicily Mathenia - Sheila Lexi Tentori - Clara Sam Costanza - Mr. Corbin Travis Stevenson - Mr. Klemper Jonathan Fields - Sen. Warren Clarke
Ron Meyer - Director Kerry Chafin - Technical Director Kerry Chafin - Lighting and Sound Design Kelsey Shoup - Assistant to Director Kelsey Shoup - Stage Manager Hailey Quinn - Lighting Engineer Brenden Chandler - Sound Engineer Liberti DiGirolamo, Allie Diveley, Amy Ramirez, Kali Shoaf and Kati Watts - Costumes/Makeup Matt Bourgeois, Logan Easter, Parker Elefson, Ben Johnson, Jacob Snow and Jesse Ulberg - Running Crew Hannah Cavendar, Chase Holman-Eddieblute, Shealyn Hedrick and Crystina Russell - Properties Crew Zac Johnson and Maddie LeVota - House Management Brittny Brown - Flyperson Justin Burton, Rosie Smith, Jessica Wikle and Tabitha Williams - Box Office Lauren Conner - Gift Runner Wendy Snow - Parent Liason