Reviewed by Jeffrey R Smith of the San Francisco Bay Area Theater Critics Circle


The Ross Valley Players are currently presenting THE BOYS NEXT DOOR by Tom Griffin.


Kim Bromley directs this hilarious and heartwarming ensemble piece about four mentally and emotionally challenged men who live in a group home guided by the paternal, patient and understanding hand of a dedicated social worker.


Josh List: a twenty year veteran of Seattle; Brook Robinson: an itinerant actor of San Antonio, Texas and Salt Lake City, Utah; Wendell Wilson: making his fourth appearance with the RVP; and David Yen: soon to be seen in the Mountain Play, collectively contribute to the chaos and pathos that is marginally reined in by their supervisor: Jack Palmer, played superbly by Timothy Beagley: a Bay Area actor with sixteen years on the stage.


Jeff Garrett, who marvelously plays MR Klemper i.e. the brutally abusive father of Barry Klemper, is dramatically speaking, a conspicuous high point of the show.


Garrett is the very apotheosis of menacing: even before he utters his first insensitive, bullying and taunting words on stage: he achieves an evil presence that only an exorcist could truly appreciate.


MR Garrett owes his evil countenance to excellent directing by MS Bromley, a glistening, unctuous sheen of psychotically sultry make-up and the perfectly sordid sartorial standards achieved by the resourceful costuming genius: Michael Berg.


Garrett as Klemper is the kind of person you would wisely cross the street to avoid passing on the sidewalk.


Were Garrett's Klemper your relative or in-law, your family would issue him a restraining order precluding him from making even a cameo appearance at a family function.


While on the surface, the play is about mainstreaming the mentally challenged, at another level, it is all about communication.


The characters, in a sense, grossly exaggerate or parody the communication short comings that all people share.


This play illustrates the imperfections and limitations of human speech.


Even amongst the most intelligent and highly articulate, spoken communication is a highly imperfect art: words have associations, denotative and connotative meanings; while they deliver messages, they send people out on tangents and on to erroneous digressions.


Words have a message in what the expressly say, what they implicitly say and even by what they fail to say.


For example: you might have a significant other that likes to remind you about how you behaved when you were in love with him or her.


What she or he leaves out of the conversation is any description of how she or he behaved during that ardent romantic period.


The omission begs the question: was he or she ever actually in love as well?


Playwright Tom Griffin artfully uses mentally handicapped characters to demonstrate the inherent shortfalls, subtleties and complexity of the spoken language.


By not saying one thing, we may be, by default, implying the opposite thing.


The evil MR Klemper is unable to tell his son, Barry Klemper, that he loves him.


Emotionally handicapped himself, MR Klemper gets as close as he can to expressing his own love for Barry by reminding Barry that despite his handicap, his mother loved him dearly.


MR Klemper urgently wants his son to feel loved and that in itself is a true expression of love.


This play will invite introspection; it will ratchet you one notch closer to the people you love; it will invite you to examine your communication skills and to listen closer to what people are saying to you.


Let there be no ambiguity in this communication: THE BOYS NEXT DOOR performed by the Ross Valley Players is well worth your time and the ticket.



For tickets to an entertaining and elevating evening, contact RVP at or flip open the cell and call  415-456-9555.