TeenStreet, at Free Street Theater.

The predominant motif of TeenStreet’s highly impressionistic theater piece is that of a young boy being held out the window of a housing project by his ankles and dropped to the ground below. The image serves as a handy metaphor for the young cast’s view of adolescence in Chicago, where violence is so bad that people hide in tubs on New Year’s Eve to escape errant bullets.

The issues TeenStreet tackles in this collectively written script–gang violence, project living, suicidal fantasies, prison experiences–are sobering but not particularly surprising. The play’s authors and performers come, after all, from Chicago’s high schools, housing projects, and homeless shelters. What makes this production so engaging is its complex, sophisticated treatment of these issues: it daringly interweaves cathartic dance numbers, eerie songs, and intensely personal stream-of-consciousness monologues.

The object of most theater is to contain talent within the acceptable boundaries of plot, character, and movement. But here the performers explode across the stage in a stunning display of unfettered energy, driven home by the percussive, intense music of Chicagoan Winston Damon. Once in a while the obscurity of the material and the reckless freedom director Ron Bieganski has allowed his actors make Held Captive by Daydreams a trifle bewildering. But when the play hits its targets it packs a powerful punch.

The postshow discussion wallowed in pomposity and self-congratulation, so to preserve the mood of the play you might want to duck out right after the curtain call.