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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

NW drama captures emotions of mentally challenged

Living in a group home, three mentally challenged men are visited by a social worker in The Boys Next Door, playing next weekend on NW Campus. The players are, seated, Tony Boone, who plays the social worker, and Tom Wood, Joe Panuska and Ecko Wilson, who play the home residents.  Photo by Martina Treviño/The Collegian
Living in a group home, three mentally challenged men are visited by a social worker in The Boys Next Door, playing next weekend on NW Campus. The players are, seated, Tony Boone, who plays the social worker, and Tom Wood, Joe Panuska and Ecko Wilson, who play the home residents. Photo by Martina Treviño/The Collegian

By Terra Aiken/reporter

Living in a group home, three mentally challenged men are visited by a social worker in The Boys Next Door, playing next weekend on NW Campus. The players are, seated, Tony Boone, who plays the social worker, and Tom Wood, Joe Panuska and Ecko Wilson, who play the home residents.  Photo by Martina Treviño/The Collegian
Living in a group home, three mentally challenged men are visited by a social worker in The Boys Next Door, playing next weekend on NW Campus. The players are, seated, Tony Boone, who plays the social worker, and Tom Wood, Joe Panuska and Ecko Wilson, who play the home residents. Photo by Martina Treviño/The Collegian

Four mentally challenged men living in a group home, try to make sense of a mixed-up-world with help from their social worker in The Boys Next Door.

This play brings humor and drama to the stage next week for the final production of the spring theater season on NW Campus.

Written by Tom Griffin and directed by J. Brent Alford, NW drama instructor, The Boys Next Door runs in the NW Theatre Wednesday-Sunday, May 2-6.

“ The play is hilarious most of the time, but there are definitely some tear-jerker scenes in it too,” Lauren Krieges, who plays Sheila, said.

The director warns some of the scenes contain strong language and are not appropriate for children.

Tony Boone plays Jack, the social worker who looks after the four men. He finds similarities between his character and himself.

“ I feel like the core of my family in my own life,” he said. “I have lots of brothers and cousins that look up to me and want my help.”

In the play, all four men look up to Jack, but he gets so overwhelmed and stressed he cannot take the responsibility anymore.

“ I have to be my own battery,” he said regarding practice and time spent on the play.

“ I am most comfortable with this role. No matter how it turns out, I still feel really good about it,” he said.
Boone has done three other plays; in one he had lines as God. One of his fears in this play is “falling into playing the character flat.”

Ecko Wilson, who plays Lucien P. Smith, said he loves the play.

“ It’s different; I’ve never played a retarded person before,” he said.

Wilson usually performs in musicals and said this is his first non-musical in more than three years. This role has been challenging because he has to walk around bent over all the time.

Justin Rhoads plays Barry Klemper, a 28-year-old schizophrenic who believes he is a pro golfer.
Rhoads has done many different plays but has been behind the scenes serving on the crew for the last two productions on NW Campus.

“ It’s a challenge-—the most challenging role I ever played,” he said.

Also he has always played the roles of children.

“ This is only the second adult I’ve ever gotten to play, and this one’s the oldest at 28,” he said. “Barry is the more normal at times than the other three, but at times can be the worst.”

Tom Wood plays Norman Bulansky, a man in his early 30s who has a romantic tie with Sheila. Wood also relates with his character.

“ I can definitely relate to anyone who has regular problems,” he said. “The voice is challenging; the walk is challenging, and this is the hardest character I’ve ever played.”

This is the first play Wood has done in almost two years since he performed in The Outsiders.

Arnold Wiggins is played by Joe Panuska.

“ Arnold is an obsessive, manic depressive character,” he said. “He sort of locks on to one thing and feels as though he has to do it or he’ll snap. Arnold doesn’t do so well in social situations. He is very scatter brained, nervous and obsessed with cleaning rugs.”

Panuska said Arnold is a lot like how he is in real life because he has to do something once he puts his mind to it.

“ I wanted this role really bad,” he said. “I’ve had more fun with this than any other play.”

The Boys Next Door is Panuska’s last show at TCC because he is moving to Baltimore.

Sheila is also mentally challenged.

“ She is more cognitive than Lucien and Norman,” Krieges said. “Sheila is aware of her handicap but tries hard to do normal things like normal people.”

In playing her character, Krieges gently rocks back and forth to make Sheila seem real.

The actress has done musicals and plays throughout high school, but this is the first production she has done at TCC.

“ The more dysfunctional the character, the more it forces me to be better,” she said. “And it helps me expand my theatrical vocabulary.”

Sheila and Norman are the romantic interests in the play, which Krieges describes as “cute.”

Ray Haney plays Mr. Klemper, who is Barry’s dad. Mrs. Fremus, Mrs. Warren and Clara are played by Brigette Marquardt while Mr. Hedges, Mr. Corbin and Sen. Clark are played by Alfred Ramirez.

Performances are 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

Tickets are free for TCC students, faculty and staff with an ID, $6 for adults 18 and up and $3 for seniors and other students.

For reservations, call 817-515-7724.

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