About Face Youth Theatre: Raising Voices | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

About Face Youth Theatre: Raising Voices 

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ABOUT FACE YOUTH THEATRE: RAISING VOICES, About Face Theatre. Last summer's "First Breath" was a stunning debut, a protean offering by About Face's troupe of gay, lesbian, and bisexual teens that turned orthodox ideas inside out. This year's "Raising Voices" is less original, communal, or assured but should also open eyes, hearts, and doors. In 90 minutes, 20 young local artists cover a lot of territory. Much is familiar, but more feels fresh.

The thrust this year is oral history. Scenes contrast the past, when closets were opened occasionally for tea dances and sexual slumming, with a present whose relative freedom also invites new threats. A cleverly illustrated lecture demonstrates 60 years of butch and femme dress codes, measuring the clash between rigid concepts of gender and sexual relativism, conveying the many ways there are to be gay through the cultural touchstones of fashion.

Not surprisingly, the most moving testimony is contemporary. One trusting boy finds himself publicly shamed at a party after he declares his love to a friend. A girl rushes through her chronicle of the murder of Teena Brandon (chronicled in the film Boys Don't Cry) as if the details were too terrible to dwell on. A boy reveals how a restrictive "family living" class was forcibly reformed when Highland Park students donned protest buttons supporting same-sex marriage. Told with electric immediacy and unashamed idealism, these moments of truth telling outweigh a militant ending that takes the title too literally.

--Lawrence Bommer

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