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‘Girls Next Door’ deemed success
The Quinnipiac Theater Company and its students performed “The Girls Next Door” from Nov. 6-9. “The Girls Next Door” is the women’s version of the play “The Boys Next Door” written by Tom Griffin. A cast of 17 Quinnipiac students performed the play, directed by Mary Vreeland, at the Long Wharf Theater in New Haven.
“The Girls Next Door” follows Jackie (Megan Joyce), who is in charge of looking after 17 intellectually young adults. Every day, this job is difficult for her, and although she loves the people she cares for, the job is driving her crazy.
Mainly, the audience gets a glimpse into one of the apartments where Jackie works: the home of Arlene, Norma, Lucy Anne and Barbara. Each of these young women face difficulties due to their disability – Arlene (Sehee Lee), is an extremely nervous person, who cannot cope when things do not work out the way she plans, and is often brutally honest.
Lucy Anne (Bret Bucci) is intellectually disabled and is scheduled to face the State Senate soon to convince them that she still requires assisted living. She believes that everything will be OK if only she can learn to sing “The ABC Song.”
Norma, played by Maegan Pachomski, is also mentally retarded and works at a doughnut shop where she has gained 17 pounds since beginning work. She yearns to win the heart of Sheldon (Mark Hoffner), who she sees at the weekly dances and who is mentally handicapped as well.
Lastly, Barbara (Christina Dello Buono) plays a schizophrenic “Golf pro.” She receives a letter from her father, which informs her that he will be visiting her, despite the fact that they have not seen each other in nine years.
Through a beautiful combination of funny, serious, moving and thought-provoking moments, this play managed to remain lighthearted while dealing with serious topics. Whether the audience was laughing at Norma, Arlene and Lucy Anne piling on top of each other in order to kill a “rat” (which is later discovered to be a neighbors pet hamster), sighing at Norma and Sheldon’s first dance or being moved to tears at the reunion of Barbara and her father (who turns out to be abusive), this play left the audience captivated at all times. It was remarkable to see how convincingly the actors played their roles as mentally handicapped individuals.
The theater itself was set up so that the audience formed a semi-circle around the stage, allowing the audience to be close to the action. It created an intimate feeling that further involved the audience in the plot and characters. The set-design was creative as the audience was privy to Norma, Arlene, Lucy Anne and Barbara’s apartments. The set included a kitchen, living room and an arch that gave the audience a view of the hallway. The realistic touches involved with the set design included extra touches such as magnets and drawings on the refrigerator, and dirty dishes in the sink.
The lighting and costumes were both minimal, but effective. The lights would often change in order for a character to give a monologue, dimming except for a spotlight on the character who was talking.
As far as costumes, the actors wore every day clothes. Barbara could be found sporting high argyle socks as she gave her golf lessons, and Norma wore her “donut shop shirt” (a black polo) to the dances. The music during scene changes and at the dances was catchy, and often had the audience clapping along.
Vreeland did an incredible job preparing this show, and the cast learned a great deal from her expertise. Vreeland is deaf and performed in “Children of Lesser God” on Broadway and on a national tour. She also appeared in the CBS television movie “Have You Tried Talking to Patty?” and starred in “Medea,” performed by Quinnipiac University Theater for Community in February at the Long Wharf.
“You really learn how important your body and motions are because that’s all she has to go off of,” freshman Kevin Mahoney said.
“It’s amazing to watch the girls transform from just a regular QU student and then completely become these characters,” Mahoney said.
There is no doubt that Lee, Pachomski, Bucci and Dello Buono embodied characters that the audience will not forget.
Even a somewhat anticlimactic ending could not change the audience’s contentedness as they left the Long Wharf Theater after seeing the performance. The way the young cast handled the material was extraordinary, and they were successful in eliciting all of the right emotions.