[This week, board member Joshua Antoon sat down to write about his experience in taking on the role of Norman Bulansky in The Boys Next Door.]
The Boys Next Door kicks off the Bobcat Players’ 2017 season on May 5. It is a play that is sweet, sad, and funny. To those readers who are unfamiliar with the synopsis of The Boys Next Door, it is about four adult males living in a group home. All four individuals have varying levels of intellectual disability. They are supervised by Jack, a social worker. The play is mingled with scenes from the daily lives of these four men, where the “little things” sometimes become momentous (and often very funny) with moments of great poignancy. The audience is reminded that the handicapped, like the rest of us, want only to love, laugh, and find meaning in the time they are allotted on this earth.
In terms of the acting process, these are very challenging roles. Portraying someone with an intellectual disability is a tight toe to line. As an actor, you want to really capture the essence of the character. You want to explore their past, their wants, their desires, and what “makes them tick.” It is a bit more difficult with these characters as their minds think differently. There are a lot of non-sequiturs from all four individuals, and, as an actor, you have to find the anchor to those lines. Why would they say this at this exact moment? What was the character’s thought process to say these lines? For example, my character Norman Bulansky is a larger, lovable man who works at a doughnut shop. At one point in the opening scene, he randomly starts describing a blueberry doughnut. He mentions that it has a bite taken out of it, but it is still good to eat. His next line refers to a revered set of keys on his belt. Why would he go from thinking about doughnuts to keys? Well, astute reader, I will tell you. He is not supposed to be eating doughnuts and his keys will be taken away if he does. During these few lines, he is debating what he wants to happen. He needs his keys, yet he wants to the blueberry doughnut. In short, the dialogue needs to be dissected and carefully examined from the perspective of the individual to give it a basis in reality.
Another challenge with The Boys Next Door is the controlled chaos that occurs on stage. In more than one scene, the individuals give Jack a run for his money when completing chores, tracking a rat in the apartment, and general daily tasks. These scenes appear to be controlled chaos, but staging the scenes was much more meticulous. At times, staging the scenes felt like a choreographed dance as characters moved in out of the scene to different parts of the apartment to cause a ruckus or confront each other over different grievances. Through all of these challenges of dialogue and staging, the cast has created a strong bond. Through my experiences with this show, I have noticed that it breeds a strong comradery. It is as if we, the actors, experience the character’s story, conflicts, and challenges, and we are stronger for it.
This is my third time tackling this show, but in a different role. It has provided new challenges and new insights. This show is sweet, silly, and sad. Yet it is one of the most quotable shows I’ve ever worked on. Don’t be surprised if you leave the show talking about donuts, rugs, golf, and keys. Hope to see you after the show!
[Tickets are on sale now for The Boys Next Door. You can purchase them at The Hostess Shoppe in Beaver or online. Tickets can also be reserved by calling our box office at (724) 494-1680. The Boys Next Door runs May 5 & 6, and 11, 12, & 13, with all performances beginning at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $10 and all seats are general admission.]