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Us or Them

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US OR THEM, Live Bait Theater. According to its brochure, the Police-Teen Link aims to "foster understanding" and "provide a unique mentoring program." Those are admirable goals--and achievable ones too, judging by the smooth integration of teens and middle-aged men and women in Ann Filmer's staging of Sharon Evans's play, cobbled together from hours of workshops.

In fact, the two groups work so well together it diminishes the show's dramatic power. Perhaps partly because of the title, we come expecting a theatrical exploration of the tensions between urban youth and the police. Instead we get a love fest, when a little conflict wouldn't be a bad thing. Teens gone wild do appear in some of the stories, mostly in the form of dead gangbangers and faceless youths hiding on the upper floors of housing projects. But there are no corresponding tales about the police going too far.

Of course, those with the most extreme stories of life on Chicago's streets--the sociopathic cops and hard-core gang members--are unlikely to get involved with something called the Police-Teen Link. And though police who want to reach out and teens who yearn to be reached are a good thing, they don't necessarily make for riveting theater.

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