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About Face Youth Theatre: Up Until Now

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About Face Youth Theatre: Up Until Now, About Face Theatre, at Goodman Theatre. If there's a self-congratulatory tone to this fifth-anniversary production, it's been earned. Made up of highlights from the last four shows, which toured schools, it's unified by the engaging testimony of the youngest member of the current gay-lesbian-bisexual ensemble: as a youngster she saw herself in the urges, dreams, setbacks, and victories depicted in First Breath, Raising Voices, In Real Life, and Inside Out and wanted to be part of the process that created them--and now this "greatest hits" retrospective.

About Face's potent depictions of coming out, staying out, and speaking out explain why this youth initiative has made a difference. Like Showtime's Queer as Folk series and Bailiwick Repertory's current In One Room (also an outlet for gay teen voices), these ensemble-generated offerings have created a kind of critical mass, not only reflecting change in the community but encouraging it. Besides, any play that makes grown-ups listen to young people needs no other excuse.

A reminder of how art shapes life, this self-tribute conveys its cause with conviction. In only 70 minutes, its solid storytelling about gender confusion, reinventing love, and redemption through activism is warmly delivered by 23 young actors. (There's even a promo for "gay juice," which ends the sort of body-image anguish that adds to gay teens' identity issues.) Anchoring the show is Charlie Engman, a male ensemble member who depicts the 15-year-old girl transformed by the first four productions--reason enough for the next ten.

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