A man threw open the apartment door and rolled a grocery cart into the living room. He frantically unloaded the cart, revealing nine boxes of Wheaties, seven heads of lettuce and a bag of charcoal briquettes.
He went to the store for Wheaties but couldn't remember how many he should buy. When he asked the manager, he told him to buy 17 boxes. He could only find nine, so he panicked and bought lettuce and charcoal to make up the difference, he explained.
"My name is Arnold Wiggins," he said, perching on a stool. "I'm basically a nervous person."
The scene played on out the Old Courthouse Theatre's stage is comical but touching. It's a scene that carries a deeper message about people with intellectual disabilities and their desire to belong, says the director and local advocates.
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Starting this week through May 9, Concord's Old Courthouse Theatre will present "The Boys Next Door," the story of Jack, a burned-out social worker who works with four intellectually disabled men living in a group home.
There's Lucien, who proudly waves his library card and brings home large volumes about agriculture despite his inability to read.
Arnold wears wide-brimmed glasses and yells about moving to Russia when things don't go his way.
Norman frets over what his love interest, Sheila, thinks of him and his passion for doughnuts. "She's no skinny minny herself," he says.
And there's Barry, the schizophrenic who is convinced he's a golf pro and offers golf lessons for $1.13 an hour.
"If we've done our job right, you'll laugh hysterically at some parts and cry at others," said director Phillip Taylor of Kannapolis.
The ARC of Cabarrus County, which assists and advocates for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, is selling tickets for the May 6 performance as a fundraiser for the organization.
Sue Price, executive director of the ARC of Cabarrus County, hopes the show will raise awareness about people with disabilities in the community. She wants the audience to walk away with a better sense of tolerance and acceptance, she said.
About 3 percent of the population has a development disability, according to the ARC, and Price said people with disabilities are often isolated in the community.
"They might communicate differently or they might not be able to communicate at all," Price said. "But the more people see them out in the community - maybe working a job - gradually public awareness will be raised, which fosters acceptance, communication and friendship," Price said.
Taylor, who's been working with the Old Courthouse Theatre since 1991, directed "The Boys Next Door" once before in the mid-1990s. He said the play taught him a lot about interacting with people with disabilities.
"They are just human beings," he said. "They get mad. They fall in love. They want everything we want."
It's a difficult show to perform, Taylor said, because the actors must be careful to not stereotype the characters and their disabilities. There are no gags.
"These are real people," Taylor said. "You treat them with respect. The comedy comes from the reality of the situation, not from slapstick."
Volunteers from the ARC of Cabarrus County came to a recent rehearsal and talked to the actors about how to act out their characters' disabilities.
For actor Ron Seabolt, the show will mark his third run in a production of "The Boys Next Door" and his second time performing the role of Arnold, who Jack describes in the play as depressive by nature.
"We are all very aware of our characters," Seabolt said. "We don't want to make them caricatures or stereotypes."
Seabolt, a former elementary school teacher from Kannapolis, said the play is about being grateful for the simple, good things in life.
"Every person on this earth deserves respect," Seabolt said. "Everyone has importance and a reason to be here."