In 1993, when this play was first produced, the British age of consent for same-sex activity was 21 (16 for straight people) and speaking positively about homosexuality in schools was legally proscribed. Playwright Patrick Wilde's drama takes place in an insular suburb of London and revolves around a gay teen named Steven (Daniel Taylor) who confidently embraces his sexuality even as he endures the homophobic barbs and brutal beatings of his classmates. One day, frequenting the public loo, he has a sexual encounter with his school's star jock, John (Miles Heymann), a boy he has long had a crush on. The remainder of the play charts the duo's on-again/off-again relationship, a behind-closed-doors affair based on real affection and caring but circumscribed by John's unlike Steven to acknowledge his feelings, either publicly or to himself. Director Michael Matthews' cogent staging underscores the strengths of a piece that breaks no new ground but handles familiar themes with sensitivity and skill. Particularly appealing is the group portrait of adolescence that rings true above and beyond any political message. The ensemble does fine work all around, but Heymann is particularly affecting as the troubled John, and Kelly Schumann frequently steals the limelight as Linda, Steven's savvy and stalwart teen confidante. Matthew Henerson also deserves note in his double role of headmaster and Steven's father, both of whom stand in for the forces of intolerance. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m. ; thru Oct. 26. (323) 957-1884, celebrationtheatre.com.
Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Starts: Sept. 9. Continues through Nov. 19, 2011