“The Boys Next Door” Review


Jivan West

A moment from "The Boy Next Door"

Sam Pearce, Copy Editor

On the evening of October 27th, Sword in the Stone Productions (Fairview’s theatre program) wrapped up their final show of “The Boys Next Door.” Because of the lack of Fairview’s usual auditorium and its relatively minimalist set design, the play’s success this year rested largely on the shoulders of the actors’ abilities and technical crew’s adaptability. And in this reviewer’s opinion, the entirety of the cast and crew pulled together to make this production something truly special.


The play centers around four mentally disabled men, played by Jaella Hardaway (12), Sam Howard (12), Kaden Hinkle (10) and Jake Bondy (12), and their caretaker, played by Kendall Baldwin (11), living in a community for people with mental disabilities. Funny and contemplative, heart-warming and somber, the play, told in a series of interconnected anecdotes, examines mental illness from a very personal, rather than political or scientific, standpoint, and every component of the production came together to create very real, relatable and empathetic characters who spoke volumes to their audience.


Considering the minimal set design, the actors, all extremely talented and clearly well prepared for their roles, brought the set to life in a way a less experienced cast could not have. Despite the small cast of a mere 14, the stage never felt empty; each moment was filled with energy and genuine emotion.


Among all the immense talent in the show, Jaella Hardaway and Sam Howard delivered some truly outstanding performances. Hardaway’s Arnold was filled with tangible nervousness and and she masterfully portrayed his hectic behavior and verbal tics, while Howard’s Lucien was a polar opposite to Arnold: childlike, innocent and carefree, which Howard nailed from Lucien’s character development right down to his movements.


Every other actor, from the leads to the one-line parts, were also worthy of the highest praise: Hinkle’s Norman was endearing and charming, Bondy’s Barry had moments of both hysterical comedy and real emotional depth, and Baldwin’s Jack was sympathetic, strong and complex.


If the cast brought the stage to life, the crew laid the groundwork. Despite the challenge of  making the play as simple and portable as possible without detracting from the show, the build crew excelled in pulling together set pieces and props that made for the best show possible. The lighting was very well executed, particularly in the dance scenes; it gave a colorful dimension to an already gripping show. Despite a few minor sound mishaps, the crew more than delivered in running the show and bringing it energy.


Another very nice addition to the shows was the music selection. While the performance of Randy Newman’s “Short People” (though oddly appropriate for the show) raised a couple uncomfortable chuckles, the rest of the songs accented the show very nicely; they were well performed and very pleasing to hear.


The only noticeable issue with this play was not the fault of anyone in cast or crew at all; it had to do with the original writing. Setting aside the slightly outdated language in the play (as it was written in the 1980’s), a number of moments fell flat, whether they were jokes or dialogue that was intended to be poignant. Of course, no play is perfectly written, but there were several moments that elicited nothing from the audience except awkwardness and discomfort—moments that were clearly intended to be either funny or emotional by the author.


Despite the minorest of flaws, however, Sword in the Stone once again delivered an excellent piece of theater—particularly in light of the challenges they faced. Chock full of strong performances and genuine depth, this play was a memorable addition to the theatre department’s long history of success.