“The Boys Next Door” joyfully highlights those in the intellectually challenged community

Theatre 21 presents a two-act comedy-drama 1986 classic.


Photo by Yehju Park / THE CHIMES

Brooke Torres, Freelance Writer

“The Boys Next Door” opens this Friday, Nov. 9, presenting a stellar comedic production with serious and important undertones. This production details the lives of four men with different intellectual challenges and their caretaker Jack. It highlights the different challenges these characters go through while living together in their group home in Boston.

Director and assistant professor of theater Zachary Bortot has ensured that the production portrays the all-encompassing realities the intellectually challenged community faces.

According to Bortot, one of the most important factors of theater is that it gives a voice to the underrepresented, and this play respectfully and lovingly gives this voice to the intellectually challenged community. Bortot says this play is meant to instill conversations about diverse circumstances that are hardly considered.

“We spent a lot of time developing the worldview of the characters. How do they see each other, how do they relate to the different things in their environments?” Bortot said. “The needs of the boys are not any different from our own. We see them deal with being ostracized, deal with heartache and trying to navigate difficult relationships.”


Fulfilling these roles demanded plenty of research and time from actors. Sophomore theater major Micah Johnson, who portrays Norman one of the four main roommates, has deep connections with this production because his younger brother has high-functioning autism.

“I got to sit down with my little brother and chat with him about his life,” Johnson said. “Getting to do this role and do this show has really been eye-opening for me about that community… The reward and the message of this show is so great.”

Senior communications major Daniel Pak, who portrays Lucien P. Smith, describes the importance of portraying an intellectually disabled character in this production.

“This community is a prevalent part in our society, it’s not something we can ignore,” Pak said. “They’re people just like us, they just have a different set of problems that we may not necessarily have to face.”


The production’s purpose is to create awareness about people with intellectual disabilities by depicting the many aspects of the men who have these challenges. Senior theater major Paul Davis, who portrays Barry one of the main roommates, explains what he believes the audience will gain from “The Boys Next Door.”

“They’ll walk away with a better appreciation for the human condition and for others,” Davis said. “This show is about empathizing with people… I think in this day and age we’re a very individualistic society where our own emotions and our own feelings are the only ones that really matter. But I think this show challenges that and forces you to see people in a different light as someone who isn’t very different than you.”

Sophomore theater major Lydia Safford, who portrays Clara, a resident of the home, summarized this production as a heartfelt comedy with hilarious scenes that the audience will enjoy, but also with scenes that express the challenges that the characters face in their lives. She believes these are challenges that people who aren’t familiar with intellectually disabled people wouldn’t normally consider.

“It’s a celebration of people with disabilities, and I think that audience members who haven’t interacted with people with disabilities could watch this and remember that people are people,” Safford said.

Ticket prices start at $8 and can be purchased here.

Showtimes begin this Friday, Nov. 9 and end Nov. 18.

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