OdysseyStage Theatre, a Chapel Hill, NC-based community theater, will present Tom Griffin’s Off-Broadway hit, The Boys Next Door, Oct. 8-17 at the Chapel Hill Senior Center. Live Wire Theatre Company artistic director Scott Franco of Raleigh will guest-direct this quirky but compassionate comedy about four mentally handicapped men who live in a communal residence and the burned-out, increasingly despairing divorced social worker who cares for them.

In reviewing the original New York production, BackStage wrote, “The Boys Next Door is one of the most unusual… and one of the most rewarding plays in town.” The New York Daily News claimed, “Griffin’s play hits squarely on the truth of life with its constant interplays and shadings of triumphs and tears.” And The New York Times added, “The Boys Next Door moves the audience to an awareness of how many things in every day life we take for granted….”

“About five years ago,” Scott Franco recalls, “I was approached by an actor friend of mine to direct The Boys Next Door in St. Augustine, Florida. I ended up playing the role of Lucien in the play as well. After an extremely successful run, I have been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to work on the play again.”

Franco explains, “The Boys Next Door is a play that tells the story of four [mentally] challenged men living in a halfway house and the post-divorce social worker that cares for them. This is a segment of society that we rarely read or hear about. Through the play we see the characters go through love, rejection, family stress, and many other aspects of life. The story is touching and hilarious at the same time, overwhelmingly honest, and inspiring. This is the kind of story that needs to be told more often.”

Scott Franco describes the characters as follows. “Jack (Will Stutts, Jr.) is a post-divorce social worker who cares for the mentally challenged,” Franco says. “Although he loves the guys he takes care of, his recent divorce and the demands of the job have started to wear him down. Through[out] the play, we see Jack struggle with the decision to quit his job, and leave the people he cares for, who have been the only constant in his life throughout the divorce.”

Franco says, “Arnold (David Klinosky), is a deeply nervous depressive, who is bullied at work, teased at the supermarket and wants desperately to move to Russia. Norman (Jim Nuss), works at a local doughnut shop and carries an enormous key ring that is his most important possession. Through[out] the play, we see Norman fall in love with Sheila (Sarah Kocz), who is a resident of another group home. As they struggle through falling in love, we catch a glimpse of true honesty in a relationship is like.”

Scott Franco adds, “Lucien (Walter Herz), who is the most challenged of the group, faces having to leave the house, and be cast out into the world because of budget cuts in social services. And finally, Barry (David Doll) is a schizophrenic who, in order to repress his childhood, has convinced himself that he is a golf pro, and is faced with seeing his abusive father for the first time in nine years. Rounding out the cast is Martin Hill, and Becca Miller who play multiple roles.”

In addition to director Scott Franco, who shares set-design duties with Jim Nuss and sound-design duties with Joe Keilholz, the show’s production team includes lighting designer: Joe Keilholz.

Franco says, “The play takes place at several locations, so we have a mixture of realistic and representational design elements.” He says the lighting is a “mixture of realistic (working home lamps) and representational lighting to help give the mood of other locations” and the cast’s costumes are modern and realistic, with one Spiderman tie.”

Scott Franco adds, “The Boys Next Door is a play that deals with contemporary social issues. As a director, the major challenge has been to work with the actors to honestly convey the afflictions of the characters.”

OdysseyStage Theatre presents The Boys Next Door Friday-Saturday, Oct. 8-9 and 15-16, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 10 and 17, at 3 p.m. the Robert E. Seymour Auditorium at the Chapel Hill Senior Center, 400 S. Elliott St., Chapel Hill, North Carolina. $10 ($8 students). 919/260-1074. OdysseyStage Theatre: http://www.odysseystagetheatre.org/.