REVIEW: Queertopia (About Face Youth Theatre)

No Fear in Queer


 About Face Youth Theatre - Queertopia 6

About Face Youth Theatre presents
Written by Paula Gilovich
Directed by
Sara Kerastas
Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted (map)
through July 25  |  tickets: $12-$20  |  more info

reviewed by Lawrence Bommer

About Face Youth Theatre - Queertopia 1Only two performances remain for Queertopia, an ensemble show that belongs exactly where it plays—in darkest Lakeview. Violence against gays and lesbians is the sadly topical subject of this year’s offering from the young people of About Face Theatre. For 80 minutes the frenetic storytellers tear around a stage filled with party balloons and a rolling scaffolding as they create a kind of Queer Love Army who  manage to meet in an abandoned condo in a not so distant dystopia. Like the squatters in “Hair” and “Rent,” they’re the vanguard of a cultural tipping point, even as they testify to their diversity in a series of confessions about what they do whenever they get home. “Out of the mouths of babes” has never felt truer.

Alas, little has changed and issues of gender identity, bullying, homophobia (here the Bible actually becomes a weapon), self-hatred, and harassment of and by minorities crop up as we meet Flea, a boy (the strategically ambiguous Britney Fryer) who while changing his sex falls for a straight girl and cops a dry known as T for testosterone. His new girlfriend incurs the wrath of Teddy (the wonderful Cristian Gorostieta) who finds an improbable common cause with the newly bisexual Lexi (lovely Neomara Serges) who somehow manages to be both Serbian and Bosnian, a truly composite soul.

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Cavorting to simulations of 21st century music videos, using the audiences’ faces as mirrors for their own, or just sleeping in a communal pile, these dozen young actors are all carving out, individually and collectively, their fabulous queer space and standing up to the bashers who want to eliminate it altogether. At its best the play presents a kind of blueprint for a gay community beyond the bars of Boystown that’s as much within as without. The acting, better than in previous Youth Theatre offerings, ultimately carries the day.

Rating: ★★★

About Face Youth Theatre - Queertopia 2


Creative Team Bios

Sara Kerastas (Director) is the Education Programs director for About Face Theatre, where she manages the Education Outreach program as well as The Youth Theatre. In Chicago, she has worked with such theaters as Strawdog Theatre, Redmoon, The Plagiarists, Theatre Seven, New Leaf Theatre and DirectorsLabChicago among others. Across Canada, she has directed with Pi Theatre, The Havana, Le Cagibi, F4L Productions and Théâtre Ste. Catherine. She received her B.A. in English-Drama & Theatre and Women’s Studies from McGill University in Montreal, Quebec. Recently, she received a 2010 Windy City Times 30 Under 30 Award. Sara is the Associate Artistic Director of 2nd Story, Chicago’s urban storytelling theatre company.

Paula Gilovich (Co-writer) lives and writes in Brooklyn. As a reporter and essayist, she has contributed to The New York Times, Allure, The Stranger, Metro and other publications nationwide. She co-founded Tenth Avenue East Publishing, where she edited and published, The World Is Yours: The Geography of Hip Hop, Pacific Bell and The Rendezvous Reader. As a playwright and director, her work has been performed at Edge/PAC, Curious Theatre Branch, SAIC, About Face Theatre and The Vic. For two years, she co-directed Gurlesque Burlesque. From 2006-2009, she served as the Education Programs Director for About Face Theatre. At About Face Theatre, she contributed to the writing of The Home Project and she wrote/directed, Fast Forward (our review★★★½). She also co-created and co-curated, The Homo Show. For the educational touring program, she adapted, wrote and directed, How to Have a Friendship in America, As Big As The World, The Home Project and Fast Forward.

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