Beautiful Thing | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Beautiful Thing

Political doctrinaires might look down on this gentle and touching play about two teenage boys, neighbors in a London public-housing estate, who fall in love. But worrying about whether this tender, funny tale is intended for gay or straight audiences misses the point: director Gary Griffin's beautifully played production, like English playwright Jonathan Harvey's script, is concerned with bringing people together. Tracing the youths' feelings as they emerge from the thicket of adolescent angst, conflicts with parents, the need for peer approval, and dimly understood sexual desire, Beautiful Thing roots its protagonists' passion in the network of friends and family that connects them, credibly portraying their coltish first steps on life's path. The situation--sensitive, bespectacled Jamie wrestles with whether, when, and how to confess his crush on athletic, slightly older schoolmate Ste and worries that his mum will find out--is familiar because it's true to life. Yet the play avoids educational-theater didacticism; delicate and quirky, it lets us exult in the heroes' freshness even as their naivete bemuses and troubles us. Talented newcomers Matt Stinton and Michael Moran as Jamie and Ste, Kirsten Sahs as Jamie's mother, Kurt Brocker as her hipster boyfriend, and Susan Bennett as the lads' misfit teenage neighbor generate a winning ensemble rapport as they contrast the emerging adolescent romance with a mature love that's disintegrating, reminding us of love's fragility as well as its joy. Theatre Building, 1225 W. Belmont, 773-327-5252. Through June 28: Thursdays-Saturdays, 7:45 PM; Sundays, 7 PM. $20-$24.

--Albert Williams

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): theater still by Brad Miller.

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