Brits Off Broadway 2005
The Traverse Theatre
THE PEOPLE NEXT DOOR
By HENRY ADAM
59E59 Theaters, 59 E. 59 St., NYC, April 27 – May 22, 2005
Director IAN GRIEVE
Designer MIRIAM BUETHER
Lighting Designer MARK PRITCHARD
Sound Designer MATT MCKENZIE
Fight Director TERRY KING
Stage Manager LEE DAVIS
Press Representative KAREN GRECO ENTERTAINMENT
Nigel – Ronny Jhutti
Mrs. Mac – Mary McCuster
Phil – Mark McDonnell
Marco – Daniel Redmond
THE PEOPLE NEXT DOOR evokes plenty of laughs for a play about a socially sheltered Pakistani-Brit caught up in the overzealous aftermath of September 11, 2001. Not altogether credible or set to answer some of the large sociological questions posed; this black comedy succeeds as entertainment by the sheer ability to be engaging, funny, and hint at dark moments in recent history just enough to bring the audience to a fleeting moment of silence.
Set in England, THE PEOPLE NEXT DOOR introduces us to Nigel, a troubled twenty-something who is the product of a fling, and who has found himself living on the fringes of society. When his half-brother, Karim, emerges as a suspect in foreign bombings, the fragile Nigel becomes subject to police brutality at the hands of Officer Phil, a renegade cop who thinks he can single-handedly curb terrorism if only he can force the mentally disturbed and drug abusing Nigel to infiltrate the local Mosque. Phil is pure caricature as he brutalizes Nigel, frames him for drug possession, and then partakes of the very drugs he has accused his mark of selling. He is unlikely as a real character, and functions more as our worst-case scenario representative of authority. He is our fear that the quest to protect democracy for a nation will result in the total loss of freedom for particular members of it. Taken on that level, he kind of works.
If the notion that anyone would select Nigel as an undercover operative seems ridiculous, THE PEOPLE NEXT DOOR lands on more solid ground when exploring Nigel’s social situation. He finds a new, makeshift family among his neighbors in the council flats when abused teen Marco flees the fury of his prostitute mother, and Mrs. Mac accidentally damages her apartment while caught up in the paranoia over Nigel’s politics. He in turn invites the two to stay with him. In a final act of incredulity, the three cover up the unlikely demise of Officer Phil, and land themselves a happy ending.
If Henry Adam’s writing is sometimes fantastical, at least this production of THE PEOPLE NEXT DOOR hits all the right notes. The actors are fine in their roles, with each just over the top enough to fit with the exaggerated situations. The set suggests low income housing, the lighting and sound are moody, and the direction keeps the action moving while timing the jokes just right.
Overall, THE PEOPLE NEXT DOOR deserves an audience. It will make you laugh in spite of yourself, and it may just make you think.
- Kessa De Santis -