Vintage southern gothic, Jim Grimsley's unabashedly homoerotic 1995 novel is both reassuringly familiar and wonderfully dissident. Its North Carolina setting conjures up a world of eternal summers and boyhood larks--but three artful subversions undermine the Tom Sawyer mystique. First, as in Jonathan Harvey's Beautiful Thing, the two young protagonists discover they're gay only when they fall in love; there's no choice, just destiny. Second, their forbidden passion heals a father's abuse. Third, in the final apotheosis, their devotion to each other takes on the power of a miracle. Yet the word "gay" is never uttered--it doesn't need to be. Recently revised by adapter-director Eric Rosen and featuring actors from About Face Theatre's successful Atlanta remount, Dream Boy is even more handsome and heartfelt than it was in its 1996 debut here. Thrillingly lit by Joel Moritz, Geoffrey M. Curley's weathered clapboard set evokes everything from a railroad trestle to a haunted plantation house. The Dixie and Chicago actors alike are ardent, attractive, and perfectly picked. Atlanta actor James McKay, a teenage natural, gives tormented Nathan tender authenticity and a survivor's grace. Also from Atlanta, Christopher Graham plays Nathan's too-human lover with a complex mix of jealousy and fear. As their nemesis, Nathan Hilding shows how easily brutality can erupt from thwarted lust. Two Chicagoans reprise their roles: Ted Hoerl plays the predatory religious father like a curse, and Kyle Hall supplies the supple, unobtrusive narration. About Face Theatre, Jane Addams Center Hull House, 3212 N. Broadway, 773-549-7943. Through November 1: Thursdays-Sundays, 8 PM. $16-$20. The company also performs scenes from the show for free Tuesday, October 13, at 7 PM at Borders Books & Music, 2817 N. Clark, 773-935-3909. --Lawrence Bommer
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): theater still by Stephanie Howard.