Cotingle, TeenStreet Theater, at Pulaski Park. Surreally and fluidly melding speech, sound, and movement, this provocative show claims to cater to a voyeuristic audience seeking to view pain. The script, developed by the TeenStreet cast, revolves around a boy (played by the physically elastic, endlessly versatile Tramaine Montell Ford) who takes on other people’s painful memories and grief. The play’s premises–that a young child is destroying himself by trying to handle too much and that everyone must bear pain alone–are far from uplifting. The lack of hope is even more disconcerting when the show’s genesis is considered: TeenStreet is a company of low-income teens who aim to develop their performing-arts skills.

Contorting their bodies into extraordinary dreamlike images with a control that many adult professionals would envy, the cast convincingly deliver their heartfelt profundities. Under the direction of Ron Bieganski, though, the show suffers from the same problem as its protagonist: it takes on too much. At one point a character asks the audience, “Are you filling in my blanks?…I know you want to.” She’s right. With characters interjecting the word “blink” or “blank” into their sentences, a saxophonist and DJ underlining (and sometimes overshadowing) the script’s words of fear or anger, and cast members twitching and dancing in the background, it’s difficult not to wish that the show would offer more clarity instead of simply acknowledging its obfuscation.

–Jenn Goddu