Teen actors from ACT stage an accomplished play about a girl transported through time to become a female gladiator


Through Sept. 1
Tickets are $7.50-15
The Zeum Theater, Yerba Buena Gardens, Fourth and Howard streets, S.F.

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By the time most American female thespians graduate from puberty, they've already become all too intimate with the overproduced script of Our Townand the painful lyrics of Bye Bye Birdie's unpleasant ditty "How Lovely to Be a Woman." To counter the country's lack of teenage drama (Ricki Lake notwithstanding), ACT's Young Conservatory, which is chock-full of tender-aged talent, has been commissioning plays like Dust specifically for the younger class. English playwright Sarah Daniels' drama follows an unpopular American teen named Flavia who, while on a field trip overseas with her cruel peers, gets caught in an underground time warp that spirals her into ancient Roman London. In this past time she learns to fight in a company of kick-ass female gladiators, and builds enough confidence to ward off the jeering and jerking around of her cliquish classmates. The actors, many of whom are still in high school, do a wonderful job with the production, especially Adde Bigelow, whose understated reading of Flavia makes the text all the more interesting and credible. Some of the portrayals of high school snobs and airheaded "Girlie Glads" (who perform a Spice Girls-esque dance routine midplay) are a tad over the top, but they'd likely communicate the essence of the show to a younger audience. ACT's rendition of this morality play is visually compelling and contains combat scenes performed in terrific costumes against a stunningly versatile set (designed by Russell Milligan). Dust's production values are high and its acting fun to watch, but teens and their parents should be aware that it's more appropriate for a preteen demographic; while local high-schoolers can surely relate to the angst associated with geekdom and wearing the wrong lipstick color, some might feel that inner-city life often presents them with more pressing problems.

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