Sometimes when I am watching a play by the Boston Teen Acting Troupe, the level of polish and professionalism is such that I forget that everyone involved - from the Founders to the cast to the creative team - are all so young that they would need to use fake IDs to buy a drink in this town. And yet they find a way to intoxicate audiences with each production. The current play,"I Don't Know Where We're Going But I Promise We're Lost" by M J Haberstadt builds upon the solid foundation that this group has built over the past few Boston theater seasons.
Under the direction of Co-Founder, Jack Serio, the cast of four actors deftly tell a moving story of three siblings who have escaped what they perceive to be an abusive home. They flee to Boston's South End where they squat in an apartment previously occupied by the deceased great uncle of Annie, who is the girlfriend of Devon, the oldest of the three siblings. Second child, Josh(Aaron Piracini) was born with the name and identity of Annie, yet identifies as male. The parents refused to call Annie "Josh," and severely punished all of their children for being complicit in the plan to allow Annie to go through life as a boy. The youngest sibling, Ty (Alec Shiman) is in remission from leukemia, adding an additional layer of complexity and uncertainty to the already precarious circumstances this family of refugees find themselves confronting.
The excellent set by Michael Navarro is the back yard of the apartment building. I felt as if I had walked into the back yard of someone's home on Union Park or Rutland Street, things obviously in disarray, disrepair and desuetude following the death of Annie's great uncle, a former teacher of special needs students. His illness forced him to allow his precious garden to go to seed and weeds. An incongruous student desk dangles ominously from a tree limb upstage left, implying several layers of meaning about the lives and fates of the previous inhabitant and those who have taken his place. There are lessons to be learned that are not taught in the average school.
|Aaron Piracini as Josh|
Brian Ott as Deon
Emily White as Annie
Alec Shiman as Ty
"I Don't Know Where We're Going . . ."
Boston Teen Acting Troupe
Through Aug. 16 at Boston Playwrights' Theatre
Photo by Michael Navarro
Lighting by Alex Fetchko, Costumes by Nicole Angell and Sound by Ed Young all serve to help create a believable setting for this gripping drama. Adding greatly to the overall effect is original atmospheric music by COVEY (Tom Freeman, Dillon Rovere and Carson Cody). These fine musicians sit on stage and provide subtle musical commentary on the action taking place in front of them. This play was workshopped last year by this company. The playwright has worked closely with the creative team to tighten the script and to create this first fully-staged production of the play.
Each of the actors is excellent. Emily White as Annie is trying to be helpful but has a difficult time understanding the complex dynamics of this unusual family constellation. Devon as the oldest tries to be responsible and to function as the authority figure, but he is out of his depth. Physical wrestling matches among the brothers signal deep grappling with their untenable situation, especially as Ty's medical condition becomes problematic. Brian Ott shows both the arrogance and the helpless sense of being lost that haunts Devon. Alec Shiman conveys just the right blend of rebellious brat and scared little boy. As things decay, he plants seeds in the garden to try to bring in a crop of watermelon that will taste like beer. Aaron Piracini as Josh is excellent - not trusting Annie at first, resisting Devon's authority and ultimately stepping in to make a difficult decision about Ty that changes the course of all of their lives.
Jack Serio directs all of these layers with a steady hand that keeps the story from veering into soap opera territory. The play as written and as produced is moving and thought-provoking without being maudlin or pedantic. The issues of Josh's transgender struggles are handled with dignity and sensitivity.
The play continues through June 16 at Boston Playwrights' Theater. Come see these young artists who are wise beyond their years. The theater is on Commonwealth Avenue. Don't get lost!
Boston Teen Acting Troupe Website